MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - What's in a name? A lot of controversy, apparently, and that's exactly what the new leader of Alabama's senate created last week with Senate Bill 264.
Now, President Pro Tem Roger Smitherman, (D) Birmingham, is explaining his reasons for SB264, a bill that would put former Alabama State University Board of Trustee member Joe L. Reed's name back on the ASU Acadome.
The ASU Board was "shocked" at the bill's creation, as it was their decision to remove Reed's name and all evidence of it from the building last May. So why would Smitherman, who graduated from the University of Montevallo and received a doctorate at Miles Law School, care about whose name was on the ASU Acadome in the first place?
"First...," Smitherman tells WSFA 12 News, "...the building was named 'the Joe Reed Acadome', and I just thought that was proper for it to be named that since of all the work he'd been doing, or did, to make sure it became a reality..." Smitherman contends that naming the building for Reed was an honor when it happened, and it should still be in honor of Reed today.
You'll remember the very public removal of Reed's name from every inch of the building in May, 2008. Workers took crowbars to commemorative plaques and marquees bearing Reed's name and likeness after the Board voted. Claims that Reed was giving the university too much negative publicity and wasting taxpayer's money filing too many frivolous lawsuits were some of the many reasons the board gave for their actions.
Smitherman says he may not have all the details behind Reed and the Board's squabble, but he feels strongly that taking the man's name off the building was unjust, going so far as to call it "retaliation".
Alabama State University says the bill, "sets a bad precedent and opens the doors for members of the Alabama Legislature to randomly rename buildings at other state colleges and universities, without the person authoring the legislation having any affiliation or association with the school whose building is being renamed."
Smitherman's response? The issue has never come up before, to his knowledge, at any other university in Alabama. So any answer would be hypothetical in his opinion.
The Board also contends the bill totally usurps the University's authority and wants Smitherman to reconsider the matter, but he explained, "I would not have gone past the [ASU] Board if they had no name on it [ASU Acadome] at all, but they inherited what the other [previous] board has done...and because it was a board action, I felt that they should have acknowledged it and gone forward with the actions of that board and left his name on there."
"If Sen. Smitherman's bill proceeds, it sets into motion a dangerous precedent that would negatively affect all other colleges and universities across our state," ASU's board said, "and that could conceivably allow a powerful politician who supports the University of Alabama to rename Auburn's Jordan-Hare Stadium after Coach Bear Bryant."
Senator Smitherman says he's talked to Reed about the bill, but says Reed did not ask him to draft it. Reed has not made any public comments on the matter.
As for the bill's passage, Smitherman is hopeful, though he isn't sure when it will come up for a vote.