The University of Florida Athletic Association is set to celebrate the first annual “Tom Petty Day” later this fall on Saturday, October 15, in conjunction with the Gators football game against LSU.
The University has also announced it will award the legendary icon an honorary Doctor of Music in May 2023 and will launch a Tom Petty Day and Florida co-branded merchandise collection.
Petty, of course, was born in Gainesville, Florida, on October 20, 1950, and spent much of his life in the Sunshine State.
The Tom Petty Estate is donating its 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. Kids Count supports education and early childhood interventions with an emphasis on literacy, while Family Promise works to bring families out of homelessness by providing housing and employment resources.
“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, of the collaboration. “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. It is near and dear to our entire Petty family. Annakim and I have a mother, father, grandparents, and an uncle and aunt who have lived here a long time. It’s unbelievable that now 90-plus-thousand people sing our dad’s song here at home games.”
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 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 in which 90,000 fans joined in a chill-inducing sing-along that rang loudly through Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. 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, athletic director for the Florida Gators. “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.”
The Tom Petty Day X Florida Collection is available now through the University of Florida Bookstore, both in-store and online, as well as the Gator Sport Shop. A limited quantity is also available HERE.
On October 14-15 there will also be an airstream pop-up shop in conjunction with Tom Petty Day at the Swamp for the LSU match-up. The line will feature high-end t-shirts by fashion licensee Original Retro Brand, as well as other gift items such as drinkware, key chains, and more from top licensees WinCraft and LOGO Brands.
Details of the game day happenings will be provided at a later date.
Tom Petty Photo: George Rose / Sacks & Co.