NEWS- JPJ himself: Jack approves 'the Jack'

In a mid-summer e-mail, UVA president John Casteen invited the University community to tour the new John Paul Jones Arena for a "special insider's view of ‘the Jack.'" On that day, July 11, it seemed the nickname would become part of the UVA lexicon.

The very next day, however, UVA athletics officials began contacting members of the media imploring them not to use the moniker. Says UVA spokesperson Carol Wood, "There was some concern about whether it was respectable enough for the person for whom it was named."

Well, UVA officials can rest easy because a key player– perhaps the key player– in the arena scene has spoken up. But before he did, the frowns went wild.

After Daily Progress used "The Jack" in a headline, and WINA sports director Jed Williams started using it on his nightly radio talk show, UVA officials issued a stop-"Jack" order of sorts.

"Out of nowhere, I got an e-mail from UVA," says Williams. Specifically, UVA athletics spokesperson Bill Hurd directed, "Please do not refer to the arena as 'the Jack,'" reasoning that several, less family-friendly names could be derived from this otherwise wholesome diminutive.

So the mischievous Williams began talking about "The Building We Can't Call by that Moniker," on the air. "But the options are unlimited here," said Williams. "My favorites were 'The Pope,' 'The Vatican,' and 'The Da Vinci Dome.' Plus, 'The JPJ not on JPA,' and some other funny ones that probably weren't quite appropriate for public consumption. Speaking of which, if not 'the Jack,' then what about 'the John?'"

That delicate issue of appropriateness had UVA officials nervous. UVA athletic director Craig Littlepage wouldn't weigh in on "the Jack," saying only, "I would prefer that it be referred to as the John Paul Jones Arena."

Partially funded by $35 million from Connecticut-based financier Paul Tudor Jones II and named for his father, the new 16,000-seat, $130-million basketball-entertainment venue opened July 31 with a performance by Cirque du Soleil.

As previously reported by the Hook, the origin of "the Jack" goes back to a visit by octogenarian John Paul Jones to the arena construction site. According to a UVA spokesperson, the 1948 UVA law school graduate made such an impression on the construction crew that they began calling their project "the Jack" after the name Jones himself uses among friends. 

When the nickname controversy broke, John Paul Jones was on an African safari. But when he came home, he didn't seem to be at all shocked by the moniker.

Speaking with the Hook from his home in Memphis, John Paul Jones said of the nickname, "I think it's very accurate because Jack's a nickname for John, right? I'm called Jack by most of my friends. President John F. Kennedy was called Jack, right? So I think it's fine."

Equally untroubled about "the Jack" is Jones' arena-donating son, Paul Tudor Jones II. "I'm less concerned about what fans want to call the building than what happens inside it," says the younger Jones. 

Asked if he thought Jones' approval granted him some license to now use "the Jack" again, radio host Williams– who also does the radio play-by-play for UVA women's basketball games– says it depends on the context. 

"If it's my talk show, I might use it occasionally," he says. "But if I'm doing an official game broadcast, and the University, for whatever reason, doesn't want me to use it, then I'll respect those wishes." 

According to Wood, the University doesn't intend to control the facility's nickname forever. "People would like a nickname to evolve organically, which is how nicknames usually happen," she says. "Our students haven't been in it yet, so there is concern that we don't jump the gun on naming it before people really have time to experience it."

Wood also says that UVA officials are still deciding on how to refer to the arena in an official capacity in the same way they did when the University expanded Scott Stadium to 60,000 seats six years ago. Those discussions resulted in the decidedly brevity-bereft "The Carl Smith Center, Home of David A. Harrison III Field at Scott Stadium."

Is "the Jack" respectable? Says John Paul Jones, "President John F. Kennedy was called Jack, right? So I think it's fine."


Whatever you call it, UVA's new $130 million arena features all the latest audio-visual bells and whistles, including four 144 square-foot plasma "Hoo Vision" displays on the central scoreboard.