The UF Athletic Association (UFAA) will celebrate the inaugural Tom Petty Day on Saturday, Oct. 15, in conjunction with the Gators football game against LSU.
UF also announced it will award the legendary icon an honorary Doctor of Music in May 2023.
In anticipation of Tom Petty Day, UF, in partnership with the Tom Petty Estate, intends to launch a capsule collection celebrating the late singer and his connection to the university and his hometown.
The Tom Petty Estate is donating full proceeds from the sales of Tom Petty Day X Florida Collection merchandise to give back to underserved communities in Gainesville. Kids Count and Family Promise will be the recipients this year.
“It is so incredible for everyone in the family that UF is honoring our dad in his hometown this way,” said Adria Petty, Tom Petty’s daughter, in the press release. “He loved the Gators and he loved Gainesville, he always talked jokingly about a doctorate from UF and he would have been totally blown away by all this. It is an added gift that we can give something back and provide much-needed resources to underserved communities in Gainesville.”
Petty, a native of Gainesville, grew up in the area and worked as a groundskeeper at the university in his younger years. He often played at Gainesville area venues before moving to Los Angeles to launch his legendary musical career with The Heartbreakers, many of whom were also local to Gainesville.
As a tribute to the singer and local icon following his death in 2017, the university played Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down,” one of the late artist’s biggest hits, in a game against the LSU Tigers. Since then, the song has been played between the third and fourth quarters of home football games and has become one of the favorite traditions amongst Florida fans.
“Tom Petty and his music has become ingrained in the game day experience at The Swamp and serves as a community building rally cry for Gator fans,” said Scott Stricklin, UF athletics director, in the press release. “We are excited to work with the Petty family to commemorate a Gainesville son through our upcoming game day celebration and this unique merchandise collection, and we know our fan base will proudly honor his connection to the university.”
What a bard Petty was! Right up there with Shakespeare!
For example Last Dance With Mary Jane:
“There’s pigeons down on Market Square.
She’s standin’ in her underwear,
Lookin’ down from a hotel room.
Nightfall will be comin’ soon.
Oh, my, my. Oh, —-, yes.
You got to put on that party dress.
It was too cold to cry when I woke up alone.
I hit my last number and walked to the road.”
Brings tears to my eyes.