Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp disliked the arrangement that Vanderbilt had for Memorial Gymnasium so much that he forced the school to place their benches on the endlines, rather than the sidelines. (or alternatively he forced the Southeastern conference to dictate to Vanderbilt where to place their benches).

The Facts

Vanderbilt University built Memorial Gymnasium as a multi-purpose facility. It opened in 1952 and was a tribute to the Vanderbilt students and alumni who were killed during World War II.

The floor was built up above some of the seating, more like a stage, which in itself is unusual (Minnesota's Williams Arena is similar in this regard.)

Vanderbilt's Memorial Gymnasium in 1952. Note the benches in the far corner already along the endlines. Also note how low the sideline seats are in relation to the floor and the unusual basket supports, which include wires hung from the ceiling to stabilize the basket.

In addition the facility left ample room along the baselines. For the majority of the time that the building has been in operation, the home bench has been placed along one endline and the opponent's bench on the opposite end. (as opposed to the sidelines).

This was not an unusual configuration at the time the building opened (i.e. the 1950's), but as more schools upgraded their facilities and more modern buildings have become available, the bench orientation became more and more rare, to the point that Vanderbilt is likely the only remaining Division I school with such a configuration.

Photo from a game in the Fall of 1957 showing Kentucky's Memorial Coliseum, also with the benches on the endlines.


While this is a common claim among some Vanderbilt fans, there is no actual proof that has ever been produced which supports their claim. For example there is no newspaper article, evidence within Vanderbilt (such as University meeting minutes) or elsewhere that's been found that 1.) such a claim by Rupp was made or 2.) that Vanderbilt chose to modify their seating based on Rupp's wishes.

The entire claim strains credibility when one considers that Rupp had absolutely no authority over where Vanderbilt placed their benches. Nor does it make sense that Vanderbilt would chose to move from a preferred location to one that was less preferred, simply to appease an opposing coach.

Beyond that, even if there was a situation where such a move occurred (for whatever reason), it doesn't explain why Vanderbilt to this day still keeps their benches on the endlines. Surely it's not because they are still somehow magically beholden to the wishes of a man who died in 1977?

In other words, not only is the claim completely unsubstantiated, but the whole claim is utterly silly and makes absolutely zero logical sense whatsover.

Note that despite the illogical nature of the claim, I did make an effort to see if this could be substantiated. But searching through newspaper archives along with other sources provided no evidence. Beyond that, a number of years ago I did contact Vanderbilt basketball historian and author Bill Traughber asking him whether he was aware of any truth to this rumor. Responded Traughber:

So the answer to the question is the simple one. It simply made more sense for Vanderbilt to place the benches on the endlines. That was true when Rupp was coaching and it still holds true today.

Note that if anyone actually has direct evidence that Vanderbilt did move their benches to the endlines to accomodate Rupp, then please contact me using the link below. Beyond that, if they know of the exact dates where Vanderbilt had their benches on the sidelines, I can go back and search for any comments Rupp may have made during that time period.

Vanderbilt's Memorial Gymnasium in recent years, after a number of renovations including the addition of balconies to increase the seating capacity


One bit of UK-Memorial Gymnasium related trivia which does appear to be true is that it was a loss to Kentucky which helped spur the building of Memorial Gymnasium in the first place.

In the opening game of the 1947 Southeastern Conference tournament in Louisville KY, Kentucky blew out Vanderbilt 98-29.

According to an article by Traughber, it was this game which prompted then Vanderbilt Athletic Director "Red" Sanders to hire Bob Polk as Vanderbilt's first full-time basketball coach and to start plans for building a suitable arena for the team to play in.

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