Thursday, January 3, 2013

Sesquicentennial Stories: The Promise of UK #113

Ab Kirwan (left) speaking into  microphone for KRLD Television on New Year's Day, 1952, after the University of Kentucky's victory over Texas Christian University in the Cotton Bowl.
 Have you ever wondered why Euclid Avenue turns into the Avenue of Champions from Rose to Limestone Streets? In 1952, the name was changed after UK won the Cotton Bowl championship in Dallas, Texas. UK Alumnus, T. Jere Bean of Louisville, suggested the name change to recognize the championship UK football and basketball teams.  The Lexington Board of City Commissioners renamed the street under a suspension of rules and Mayor Tom Mooney presided at the official hanging of the sign.

Quarterback Vito "Babe" Parilli holding the new street sign "Avenue of Champions"
During this time Bernie A. Shively was the UK Athletics Director. Shively came to the University of Kentucky in 1927 as an assistant football and head track coach.  He served as Athletics Director from 1938 until his death in December of 1967. The athletics program grew substantially under the direction of Bernie Shively.  He directly supervised doubling the seating capacity of the football stadium, the construction of a sports center to provide top facilities for spring sports and football practice, and moving the basketball team into Memorial Coliseum, which at the time was considered the finest collegiate basketball arena in the nation upon its completion in 1951.  

Celebration dinner after UK victory over Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl, New Year's Day, 1951; pictured from right, Charles Grenrod, Ab Kirwan, Betty Kirwan, Governor A. B. Chandler, Athletics Director Bernie Shively, Mrs. Chandler, UK President Herman Donovan; others are unidentified.
Shively played a key role in bringing Paul “Bear” Bryant to UK as football coach in 1946, and was critical in promoting harmony between Coach Bryant and Coach Adolph Rupp. During the Bryant and Rupp years, the Wildcats won four NCAA, one NIT, three Bowl and 19 SEC championships.  They also won the collegiate bracket of the Olympic Trials, sending five basketball players and Rupp to gold medal victories in the 1948 Olympics. Bernie Shively was a major influence in UK Athletics. 

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