GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida’s two highest-profile athletic venues now have new names: Gator football will now be played at Steve Spurrier-Florida Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, while the arena portion of the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, home of several Florida Gators athletic teams and numerous community events, will be known as Exactech Arena, the latter the result of a $5.9 million sponsorship by local orthopaedic device company Exactech.
UF’s Board of Trustees approved both namings today.
“These two new names demonstrate how fortunate the university is to have both a tremendous legacy to honor with Steve Spurrier and a wonderful and long relationship with a locally based company like Exactech,” UF President Kent Fuchs said. “We’re proud to have such strong associations with two names that resonate so well in the community and throughout the Gator Nation.”
UF Director of Athletics Jeremy Foley called the football field naming “an appropriate way to commemorate one the most legendary figures in Gator athletics history. Coach Spurrier did more than win a Heisman Trophy, a national championship and a bunch of games. Coach Spurrier changed the culture of Florida athletics. We were an institution that always had a mantra of wait until next year and wouldn’t it be great to just win one championship. Coach changed all of that. The Gators won, won big and won with swagger.”
Foley was also excited about Exactech’s sponsorship.
“We are also thrilled to partner with Exactech because they are first-class in everything they do,” he said. “They are a local company and they have significant ties to the University of Florida.”
Spurrier said he was extremely grateful for the recognition.
“I am humbled, honored, thankful and very appreciative that my alma mater, the University of Florida, believes that I am worthy and deserving to have my name placed on Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, also known as ‘The Swamp,’” he said. “The Swamp is a special place. Us coaches and players thoroughly enjoyed playing in front of our fans. We won a bunch of them there and only lost five and they were close ones. I also met my wife, Jerri Starr, at the University of Florida. She has been a tremendous influence on everything I’ve done since. Again, I say thanks to all of those who made this honor possible and I consider this to be the biggest, most special honor I have ever received.”
Spurrier’s accomplishments as a player and coach are well documented and include:
- First Heisman Trophy winner in school history (1966)
- Led the Gators to their first National Championship in 1996
- Won six SEC titles and had the league’s best record seven times
- Compiled a 122-27-1 record from 1990-2001, the most wins for a Gator coach in school history and a winning percentage (.817) that ranked among the top three in school history
- Prior to 1990, only eight UF teams had finished with nine wins or more –Spurrier won at least nine games in all 12 of his seasons at Florida
- No Florida team had won more than nine games in a season prior to his arrival – Spurrier won 10 or more games in nine of his 12 years
- Coached in back-to-back National Championship games (1995 and 1996 seasons)
UF will honor Spurrier at the season opener versus Massachusetts in a ceremony that will include the unveiling of his namesake on the stadium.
Fox Sports represented UF to help broker the Exactech Arena agreement. Exactech’s sponsorship of the O’Connell Center arena gives the company a premier presence at the venue, use of UF athletic facilities, curriculum integration through FOX Sports University, and media exposure on Fox Sports Sun and Fox Sports Florida. Exactech plans to channel the visibility toward health-related education.
“Exactech Arena adds yet another dimension to our deeply rooted partnership with UF,” Exactech CEO David Petty said. “Exactech employees are already passionate about helping people maintain their activity and independence through our joint replacement systems. This sponsorship gives us new channels to promote healthy lifestyles, encourage mobility and expand our support of the Arthritis Foundation. And what better place to symbolize this than amidst the energy and passion of this arena?”
Said Cindy O’Connell, wife of the late UF President Stephen O’Connell, inaugural UF Trustee and director of the Florida Prepaid College Foundation: “The community, the state, the alumni, donors, the students and faculty should be thrilled at the expansion and supportive of the naming of the arena. It is still the O’Connell Center – a building for all reasons. There is a new name on the arena, which is customary for today’s facilities. I’m thrilled to endorse this and the legacy of Stephen C. O’Connell will continue.”
UF and Exactech have a 30-year history of collaboration on education, innovation and health care.
Exactech was founded in 1985 by orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Bill Petty, his wife Betty, and biomedical engineer Gary Miller. While faculty and research colleagues at the UF College of Medicine’s Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Petty and Miller collaborated with several orthopaedic device companies and thought they saw some things the industry could do differently, and better. They wanted to focus their vision on creating products and services that would make a difference in the quality of care provided to patients suffering from joint diseases like arthritis.
With global headquarters in Gainesville, Exactech now has more than 700 employees who design, develop, manufacture and distribute innovative orthopaedic implants and surgical instrumentation for patients undergoing shoulder, knee, hip and spine surgery. The company’s products are distributed in more than 35 countries.
Collaborations between Exactech and UF include:
- UF surgeons and faculty partner with Exactech to develop the latest advancements in total joint replacement surgery and to conduct clinical research.
- Orthopaedic surgeons from around the world observe UF surgeons and gain hands-on experience with Exactech products in UF’s surgical skills labs.
- Exactech sponsors seminars for UF College of Medicine orthopaedic surgery residents and fellows.
- The Gary Miller, PhD, Biomechanics Laboratory, Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
- The Bill Petty, MD, Endowment in Orthopaedics and Rehabilitation, College of Medicine.
- Exactech internships, tours, course support and class projects for UF students.
- Tuition reimbursement to help Exactech employees earn degrees from UF
- Careers for a substantial number of UF graduates
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