GOOD AFTERNOON, FOOTBALL FANS, AND WELCOME TO PIGGLY WIGGLY STADIUM!
On Monday, the University of Kentucky announced that it is changing the name of its football stadium from Commonwealth Stadium to Kroger Field. That’s right, frequent football shoppers! Come September, the University of Kentucky Wildcat football team will be playing in a football stadium named after a grocery store.
It is not known at this time whether the Wildcat players will be pushing shopping carts as they race onto the field.
Kroger is reportedly going to pay the University of Kentucky $1.85 million a year for the next 12 years for the naming rights.
Also, as part of the deal, Kentucky Basketball Coach John Calipari will receive double fuel points from Kroger for the rest of his life.
Football stadiums in the south have always been regarded as sacred ground. They are usually named after legendary university figures. The Tennessee Volunteers play in Neyland Stadium, named in honor of their legendary coach, General Robert Neyland.
The Alabama Crimson Tide play at Bryant-Denny Stadium. I have no idea who “Denny” is or was, but obviously Bryant was “the Bear.” Poor Denny. They will no doubt someday take his name off the stadium, renaming it “Bryant-Saban Stadium.”
The University of Florida Gators play on Steve Spurrier Florida-Field in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, otherwise known as “The Swamp.” It is appropriately named since many Tennessee Vols have drowned there over the years.
And the Vanderbilt Commodores play at Dudley Field, named in honor of their legendary football coach, Dudley Do-Right.
But up until now, no SEC school has defaced its football stadium by naming it after a grocery store or a pizza restaurant chain. The University of Louisville plays its football games in “Papa John Stadium,” and Papa John pays the University a lot of dough for this.
Professional teams have for years sold their stadium naming rights to big corporations. When the Tennessee Titans opened their beautiful palatial new stadium in 1999, they called it the “Adelphia Coliseum.”
Adelphia Business Solutions agreed to pay the Titans a whooping $30 million for the stadium to be named in its honor for 15 years.
Unfortunately, early on in the agreement, Adelphia defaulted on its payments and declared bankruptcy.
The Titans briefly considered renaming the stadium “Bankrupt Adelphia Coliseum,” but it just didn’t sound right.
The Titans then scraped the word “Adelphia” off the sign in the front of the stadium, and for the next four years they played simply in “The Coliseum.”
The Titans then sold their naming rights for a few years to some outfit called “LP,” and now the stadium is named after a car dealership. I think it’s called “Bob’s Used Cars Stadium,” but I’m not really sure about that.
The Memphis Grizzlies absolutely, positively play basketball at the Fedex Forum, and the Nashville Predators play at Bridgestone Area, named after some tire company.
But up until now, no SEC school has sullied its gridiron by selling stadium naming rights to the highest bidder.
With the college athletic world plagued by one-and-done “student-athletes,” academic scandals, and more assaults by football players off the field than on it, it is just a matter of time before institutions of higher education lower themselves by “branding” their football fields.
Don’t be surprised if on some future third Saturday in October, the Tennessee Vols face the Alabama Crimson Tide at Piggly Wiggly Stadium in Tuscaloosa or the Pilot Oil Truckstop Field in Knoxville.
The Vanderbilt Commodores will no doubt soon be playing in Martha White’s Self-Rising Flour Field. The Ole Miss Rebels will play in Dickie Scruggs Tobacco Settlement Stadium, the Georgia Bulldogs will host their opponents in “Cracker Barrel Field,” and the Arkansas Razorbacks will, of course, be playing in the Walmart Coliseum.
As the late, great voice of Neyland Stadium, Bobby Denton would have put it, “Please pay these corporate naming-right prices, and please pay no more!”