Athens City School District has recently named its football stadium Joe Burrow Stadium in honor of alumni Joe Burrow and his contributions to the Athens community.
Tom Gibbs, superintendent of Athens City School District, said the decision was made in December.
“Multiple Board Members contacted me individually prior to the December meeting indicating that members of the community had suggested that some significant recognition should be made based upon Joe's college athletic accomplishments,” Gibbs said in an email.
The field itself is not being renamed, but the stadium now has an official title. Sean Parsons, a member of the Athens School Board, said the stadium name serves to celebrate the success of one of their alumni.
Parsons also said no existing names are being taken away, and that the field will remain R. Basil Rutter Field in addition to the newly named stadium.
“It’s something that the community is very excited about,” Parsons said. “You know, the kids in our schools are very excited about today, they're all wearing gold and purple. And so I think it's just an exciting time.”
Parsons said the decision to rename the field was well-received and had a lot of good feedback.
“I made a Facebook post and I probably within two days had 45,000 engagements on it, which is quite a bit,” he said. “I even had a random person, a woman from Louisiana, call me that night thanking us for doing this. She was a 75-year-old woman and started to tell me about the history of LSU football and how much Joe Burrow meant to her and her late husband.”
Gibbs also said once the decision was made, it reached 168,412 users on Facebook and racked up 5,377 likes.
Parsons said Burrow serves as a hero to kids in the Athens community and expressed his excitement to continue following his success.
“I think that this is a message of celebration,” he said in an email. “A celebration of hard work, dedication, perseverance and of community. When students step into the stadium and see Joe Burrow's name on it, it proves to them that anything is possible.”
Kim Goldsberry, member of the Athens School Board, said the stadium was named in honor of Burrow because of both his success and character.
“He’s also a good person and he’s kind,” she said. “He’s aware of social issues in our community. He had an opportunity to speak to a public audience and for four minutes and 31 seconds of it he chose to speak about a need in Ohio that generated half a million dollars for food insecurity.”
Goldsberry said this decision sent the message that there is support for the action he’s taken for the community.
“It’s pretty powerful when you can have somebody like Joe as an example to young children,” she said. “He’s a perfect example of hard work and dedication and not giving up.”
The change can be something students look back on, Goldsberry said.
“When they are my age, they’ll come back and be like ‘I remember when Joe Burrow was playing and everyone wore purple,’ ” she said. “Hopefully it will give them opportunities for goals. My high school age children, they can see that somebody they went to high school with now has a stadium named after them, it is possible to achieve your dream and beyond.”
Burrow specifically mentioned the children of Athens in his acceptance speech for the Heisman Trophy.
“There’s so many people there that don’t have a lot, and I’m up here for all those kids in Athens and Athens County that go home to not a lot of food on the table, hungry after school,” he said in his speech. “You guys can be up here, too."
Burrow’s acceptance speech raised close to $500,000 for the Athens County Food Pantry, according to a previous Post report.
The food pantry noted that this was the first time it had raised such a significant amount of money and intends for the funds to be used in the best way possible. The money will go toward benefitting the 5,700 people who were served by the food pantry in 2018, including over 1,800 children.
Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks personally thanked Burrow.
“On behalf of all 2 million hungry Ohioans -- Thank you Joey!” she said in an email.
Correction: A previous version of this report incorrectly stated Athens City School District. The article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.