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From The Kentucky Encyclopedia -
Adolph Frederick Rupp of the University of Kentucky (UK) was one of the most successful coaches in college basketball history. In a forty-two-season career as coach of the UK Wildcats (1930-72), Rupp garnered 880 victories and 190 defeats, for a winning percentage of.822. He led the Wildcats to twenty- eight Southeastern Conference championships, five Sugar Bowl Tournament championships, one National Invitational Tournament (NIT) championship, twenty-one appearances in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament, and four NCAA championships. In 1948 the Wildcats participated along with the Phillips Oilers in London as the U.S. basketball entry in the Olympic Games, and defeated France for the gold medal.
Rupp was born on September 2, 1901, on a farm in Halstead, Kansas, the fourth of six children of Heinrich Rupp, a native of Einsiedel, Austria, and Anna (Lichti) Rupp of Kisselhof, Germany. They had immigrated with their families to Halstead. Rupp played on school basketball teams in both elementary school and high school and graduated from Halstead High School in 1919. In the fall of 1919, Rupp enrolled at the University of Kansas, where he majored in economics and played on the Jayhawk basketball team, coached by Forrest C. ("Phog") Allen. During Rupp's three years of varsity competition, (1921-23), he did not score a single point. During the summer of 1924, while pursuing a graduate degree, Rupp taught and coached football and basketball at Burr Oak High School in Kansas, backed by a strong recommendation from Allen. After a year, he went to Iowa's Marshalltown High School to coach football, track, wrestling, and basketball. Rupp, who had never seen a wrestling match, bought a book on wrestling for pointers, then led his team to the state championship.
In 1926 Rupp moved to Freeport High School in Illinois, where he compiled a record of 66-17, won eighteen games in 1929, and took third place in the Illinois state tournament. It was during the four years at Freeport that Rupp completed an M.A. degree in education, spending four summers at Columbia University Teachers College in New York. He married Esther Smith, of Freeport, on August 29, 1931. The couple had one son, Adolph, Jr.
In 1930, when John Mauer resigned as coach at the University of Kentucky, Rupp was among seventy-one applicants for the job. He received a strong recommendation from Craig Ruby, athletic director at the University of Illinois, whose support was crucial since most of Kentucky's basketball and football coaches during the 1920s had been University of Illinois products. The UK board of trustees on May 31, 1930, appointed Rupp instructor in physical education, in charge of varsity basketball. He assisted in football and track. His two-year contract paid $2,300 for 1930-31 and $3,000 for 1931- 32.
Rupp's dynamic personality and his genius for public relations made an immediate impact at the university. He was even then described as portly in appearance, but his personality made a still greater impression. Mauer had experienced success during his three years as coach of the Wildcats (a record of 40-14), and Rupp adopted Mauer's offensive system, including specific plays and practice routines. Unlike Mauer, however, Rupp freed his players to run when the opportunity presented itself, and unlike the former coach, he delighted the press with quotable statements and witty anecdotes.
Rupp's first Wildcat team, including veterans Louis McGinnis, George Yates, and All-American Carey Spicer, sported a record of 15-3. Although the 1930-31 team won one fewer game than Mauer's team of the previous year, Rupp's continued success dimmed Wildcat fans' memories of the former coach. During Rupp's first five seasons, UK compiled a record of eighty-five victories and only eleven defeats, for a winning percentage of.885. The team won its first Southeastern Conference (SEC) Tournament in 1933.
Rupp's success held through the 1940s and 1950s. His team won the prestigious National Invitational Tournament in the 1945-46 season, as well as four national championships (1947-48, 1948-49, 1950-51, and 1957-58). In the 1965-66 season, the Wildcats came within one victory of winning still another national championship. Rupp's unparalleled success was not without controversy, however. A point-shaving scandal resulted in the suspension of the team for the 1952-53 season, and only on the edge of retirement did Rupp recruit a black player, Tom Payne. Rupp's retirement itself was controversial. When the UK Athletics Board agreed that the university policy of mandatory retirement age would apply to Rupp, forcing the seventy-year-old coach to bow out, he told a newspaper reporter that he might as well be taken to the Lexington Cemetery.
After five years in retirement, Rupp died on December 10, 1977. He had lived to see the dedication in 1976 of the 23,000-seat Rupp Arena for basketball. One of the most successful and colorful coaches in the history of college basketball was buried in the Lexington Cemetery not far from the arena that bears his name.
JAMES DUANE BOLIN, HUMBERT S. NELLI, Entry Authors
Selected Sources from UK Libraries:
Embry, M., & Rupp, A. (2000). Baron of the bluegrass : Winning words of wisdom by and about Adolph Rupp, legendary Kentucky basketball coach. Nashville, Tenn.: TowleHouse Pub.
GV884.R84 E42 2000, Special Collections Research Center
Rice, R., & NetLibrary, Inc. (1994). Adolph Rupp : Kentucky's basketball baron. Champaign, IL: Sagamore Pub.
GV885.43.K4 R530 1994, Young Library 4th Floor
Laudeman, T. (1972). The Rupp years; the University of Kentucky's golden era of basketball. Louisville: Courier journal.
796.32 R878L, Special Collections Research Center