As you may have read earlier this morning in the Beisner Hot Links, the news of today is the report from the Herald Leader that UK is likely to build a new Wildcat Lodge with the donations of some fine citizens. Nothing but good news there. However as part of their demand for giving the money, they have “requested” (in the same way that the US “requests” I pay my taxes) that the name of the new building be the “Wildcat Coal Lodge.” According to the article, the group has raised 7 million dollars for the project and the new proposed name was announced to the student body on Thursday night. It will be voted on Tuesday by the UK Board and either accepted, or rejected, at that time.
After spending some time (at least 5-7 minutes) thinking about this issue, I actually think the name change is a bad idea, but not for the reasons you might imagine. My thoughts on coal are complex and nuanced, and thus a sports blog is not likely the best forum for their airing. But suffice to say, I realize the reality that coal is not the future for Kentucky because of its environmental impacts and its inability to be a permanent resource. But I am also from Eastern Kentucky and I understand the intregal role it plays in providing some economic benefit to a region with very few other options. So I am not against the idea of “Coal” sponsoring the Wildcat Lodge because of its political or social connotations. Coal is a part of Kentucky’s historical legacy and will be a part of its short-term future.
Having said that, I wouldnt name the Lodge the “Wildcat Coal Lodge” for two simple reasons: it takes away Joe B Hall’s name and its lame. The first is rather simple. Joe B Hall won a national championship at Kentucky and there is likely no figure that has placed a greater part of his life’s work with a University than Hall. He was born in Kentucky, played for UK, was an assistant coach and then head coach there and has spent his life around the Big Blue. While his historical legacy will never be changed, his name is only on one thing to my knowledge…Wildcat Lodge. And that name provides players of all generations the chance to remember one of the true legends to coach here. Rupp is remembered via his arena. Pitino and Tubby are still close enough to be mentioned. But Hall’s legacy is shown by his name on that Lodge, and every player that plays at UK finds out about him when they walk in the door. I would hate to see that simply go away.
Also, lets face it, “Wildcat Coal Lodge” sounds like the name of a settlement during the Civil War. I mean here we are the program of the future, full of modernity and THE place to be for college basketball. And you want our player’s dorms to sound like they are powered by lamps and filled with butter churns? I am certain the new Wildcat Lodge will look better and be more impressive than any other similar dorm in the country. Also, because of some state laws and University regulations, in order to be built, it will also be “green” and energy efficient. To name it the “Coal Lodge”, just strikes me as not fitting the overall theme.
Having said that, I do appreciate what the donors are trying to do. So how about this as a compromise: Joe B Hall Wildcat Lodge…sponsored by Friends of Coal. This allows some nod to the individuals who paid for the building, preserves the legacy of Joe B Hall, gives an understanding of the importance of coal to the state and buffers us against any potential embarassment of a 1920s name on a 2010 building. That strikes me as the best option for this somewhat sticky situation.