Ever wonder how the SEC football stadium you visit on a fall Saturday got its name? Tony Barnhart of Gridiron Now has written an excellent piece on the history of SEC stadiums.
A couple of things prompted me to write this column.
First was a conversation with our own Buddy Martin about his recent column and forthcoming book on Steve Spurrier. Martin closed out the column by making the case that Spurrier, with 122 wins, six SEC championships and a national championship, deserves to have his name somewhere on Ben Hill Griffin Stadium/Florida Field. Right now, there is a statue of Spurrier along with Florida’s other Heisman winners, Danny Wuerffel and Tim Tebow, outside of the stadium.
The other event that made me want to write this was getting a chance to spend a good chunk of time Wednesday with former Georgia coach (1964-88) and athletic director Vince Dooley. Wednesday, Dooley received yet another honor in his Hall of Fame career with the Coach (John) Wooden Citizenship Cup, presented by Athletes for a Better World (www.abw.org). The previous honorees include Jack Nicklaus, Drew Brees and Pat Summitt.
Dooley, who won 201 games, six SEC championships and a national championship at Georgia, also spent 25 years as the school’s AD. He worked in Athens for 41 years.
When Dooley got to Georgia in 1964, Sanford Stadium’s capacity was right at 36,000. When he retired in 2004 it seated 92,746.
RELATED: The SEC’s Mount Rushmore of coaches
The school’s athletic complex is named for Dooley, but it certainly can be argued that he has had more impact on Sanford Stadium than any single figure in the school’s history. At the very least, as is the case for Spurrier, the field should be named after him.
Why it’s not is a political story too long to tell here. But it’s complicated.
At least 20 former players turned out for Dooley on Wednesday night for the award presentation. Among them were 16 seniors from the national championship team of 1980. There was no doubt about where they stood on the issue.
“There is a reason all these lettermen turned out for Coach Dooley tonight,” said Frank Ros, a permanent captain of the national championship team. “He changed our lives. He helped us become men. Given everything he has done for Georgia and his players, it would be nice to have his name on the stadium.”
This whole process got me thinking: Who are SEC football stadiums named after and how did these people ultimately get their name on the door? It turns out that six of the 14 stadiums honor iconic football coaches in some way. The rest are named after presidents, professors and very generous benefactors who gave a whole lot of money to the building or renovation of the stadium.
So here’s the breakdown of how each SEC stadium got its name.
STADIUMS/FIELDS NAMED FOR COACHES
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Alabama: Built in 1929 and originally named for George H. Denny, the school’s president from 1912-36. In 1975, the Alabama legislature would add Paul “Bear” Bryant’s name. Bryant won 13 SEC championships and six national championships in 25 seasons (1958-82) at Alabama.
Jordan-Hare Stadium/Pat Dye Field, Auburn: Built in 1939, it was simply known as Auburn Stadium for its first 10 years. In 1949, it was named for Cliff Hare, a player on Auburn’s first team and the dean of Auburn’s school of chemistry. In 1973, the name of coach Ralph “Shug” Jordan (176 wins in 25 seasons) was added to the title. In 2005, the playing surface was named for coach Pat Dye, who won four SEC championships from 1981-1991.
Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium/Frank Broyles Field, Arkansas: The stadium was renamed in 2001 for the well-known philanthropist whose gift made the renovation of Razorback Stadium possible. The field is named after the Hall of Fame coach and athletic director who retired in 2007 after a 50-year association with Arkansas.
Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field, Missouri: Dedicated in 1926, it was originally named Memorial Stadium to honor the 112 students and alumni who lost their lives in World War I. In 1972 the playing surface was named after long -time coach Don Faurot, who was both a successful player and coach at Missouri.
Vaught-Hemingway Stadium/Hollingsworth Field, Ole Miss: Built in 1912, the stadium at Ole Miss was named for Judge William Hemingway, a professor of law and chairman of the university’s committee on athletics. In 1982, the name of legendary coach John Vaught, who won six SEC championships and three national championships, was added to the stadium. In 1998, the field was named for Dr. Jerry Hollingsworth, a long-time contributor to Ole Miss athletics.
Neyland Stadium/Shields-Watkins Field, Tennessee: Built in 1921, the stadium originally was named Shields-Watkins Field. Colonel W.S. Shields, president of Knoxville’s City National Bank, provided the original capital to get construction under way, So the stadium was named after Shields and his wife, Alice Watkins-Shields. In 1962, the facility was renamed Neyland Stadium after legendary coach Gen. Robert Neyland. The stadium capacity had increased 14-fold during his time as coach (1926-52). The playing surface still is named Shields-Watkins Field.
Ben Hill Griffin Stadium/Florida Field, Florida: Named for a citrus magnate and major benefactor. Griffin and his family donated more than $20 million to the university and its athletic programs.
Sanford Stadium, Georgia: Named after former president S.V. Stanford, who was the driving force behind building the stadium, which was dedicated in 1929 with a game against Yale.
Commonwealth Stadium/C.M. Newton Field: Named after the commonwealth of Kentucky. The field was dedicated to the former basketball player and successful athletic director.
Tiger Stadium, LSU: Other than “Death Valley,” there are no other names or nicknames attached.
Davis Wade Stadium at Scott Field, Mississippi State: From 1920-2000, the stadium simply was known as Scott Field, in honor of Don Magruder Scott, an Olympic sprinter and a football star in 1915-16. In 2001, the stadium was renamed to honor Floyd Davis Wade, co-founder of AFLAC, who made a large contribution toward the renovation project.
Williams-Brice Stadium, South Carolina: It was called Columbia Municipal Stadium and Carolina Stadium until 1972. That’s when a major stadium expansion was funded by the estate of Martha Williams-Brice, whose family ran a successful furniture company.
Kyle Field, Texas A&M: Dedicated in 1924, the stadium was named for Edwin Jackson Kyle, a professor of horticulture who became president of the school’s General Athletics Association. In 1904, there was no place for fans to watch the school’s athletic teams. So Kyle took a part of the A&M campus that was designated for agriculture and spent $650 of his own money to set up stands that would seat 500. Today, Kyle Field, which just underwent a $450 million renovation, seats 102,733.