ST. GEORGE, Utah — Before he pitched in the big leagues, Bruce Hurst had deep ties to what’s now called Dixie State University.
Hurst pitched for the school before being selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 1976 Major League Baseball draft. Yet Hurst, whose uncle, Arthur Bruhn, was once campus president, is among those who think it’s time “Dixie” was ejected from the university’s name.
“I am in favor of change,” Hurst said in an interview with FOX 13.
“I am of the opinion that the name does have some negative ramifications or connotations with it that reach farther than Washington County and St. George and I think it’s important that we create an environment that is welcoming to all – that doesn’t offend.”
Hurst was an All-Star for the Red Sox and also pitched for the San Diego Padres, Colorado Rockies and Texas Rangers. Dixie State’s baseball stadium is named for Hurst and a statue of the school star featuring his lefthanded follow-through stands outside the ballpark.
Hurst, 62, said seeing his African-American teammates suffer discrimination influenced his opinion on the university name. He recalled an episode that made news in 1986 when the Red Sox held spring training in Winter Haven, Florida.
The local Elks Club had invited white ballplayers to come have drinks, but not Black players.
“I cannot speak to the Black experience in America,” Hurst said, “but I saw firsthand, really closely that it was uniquely different than I experienced.”
Other notable alumni are against changing Dixie State’s name. The opposition includes Nolan Archibald, the retired CEO of the Black & Decker Corp., and Tony Burns, the former CEO of the Ryder Systems transportation and supply chain company.
They sent a letter to Utah legislators reading in part:
“The name Dixie has a long and rich history to the residents of Southern Utah. The pride of Dixie started with those brave pioneer families who were sent to southern Utah to be part of the Dixie cotton mission. The name Dixie has represented sunshine, warmth, hard work and sacrifice.”
Hurst says he respects those who believe "Dixie" has a unique, historical name for southern Utah.
“And I know if we can sit down and reason together,” Hurst said, “that there can be solutions. But if we become tribal and start taking sides, then it becomes problematic.”
Hurst says he has no preference for a new name.