Kentucky Wildcats

Kentucky Wildcats
University University of Kentucky
Conference Southeastern Conference[A 1]
Conference USA
Great America Rifle Conference
NCAA Division I / FBS
Athletic director Mitch Barnhart
Location Lexington, Kentucky
Varsity teams 19
Football stadium Commonwealth Stadium
Basketball arena Rupp Arena (men)
Memorial Coliseum (women)
Baseball stadium Cliff Hagan Stadium
Mascot Blue, Scratch, and The Wildcat
Nickname Wildcats
Fight song On, On, U of K, Kentucky Fight
Colors Royal Blue and White[1]

The Kentucky Wildcats are the men's and women's intercollegiate athletic squads of the University of Kentucky (UK), a founding member of the Southeastern Conference. Historically, the women's teams and athletes were referred to as the "Lady Kats", but all athletic squads adopted the "Wildcats" nickname in 1995. Collectively, the fans of the Kentucky Wildcats are often referred to as the Big Blue Nation.


The nickname "Wildcats" became synonymous with UK shortly after a 6–2 football road victory over Illinois on October 9, 1909. Commandant Philip W. Corbusier, then head of the military department at old State University, told a group of students in a chapel service following the game that the Kentucky football team had "fought like Wildcats." Later the name Wildcats became more and more popular among UK followers as well as with members of the media. As a result, the nickname was adopted by the university.[2]

The university adopted blue and white as its official colors in 1892. Originally, however, UK students had decided on blue and light yellow prior to the Kentucky-Centre College football game on December 19, 1887. The shade of blue, which is close to a royal blue, was chosen when a student asked the question, "What color blue?" At the time, Richard C. Stoll (who lettered in football at UK in 1889–94) pulled off his necktie and held it up. The students then adopted that particular shade of blue. A year later, UK students officially dropped the light yellow color for white because the two colors did not look good together.[2]

Varsity teams

Teams officially sponsored by the UK athletic program include baseball, men's & women's basketball, men's & women's cross country, football, men's & women's golf, women's gymnastics, men's & women's soccer, softball, men's & women's swimming & diving, men's & women's tennis, men's & women's track & field (indoor & outdoor), women's volleyball, and the coeducational sport of rifle practice.

UK has won 11 national championships with its latest being crowned on April 2, 2012 by the men's basketball team. UK also boasts the 1988 Women's Cross County national championship, 2011 rifle and seven other men's basketball titles. UK was also crowned an NCAA co-champion, after knocking off #1 Oklahoma in the 1951 Sugar Bowl to win the 1950 National Championship in college football.


Beginning in the 1890s, students at the University of Kentucky started scheduling football games with neighboring colleges.[3] The basketball program began on campus in 1902, originally as a women's sport;[3] a men's team was added one year later. Several decades later, in 1930, then-high school coach Adolph Rupp was hired as a basketball coach for the university, a career that would span over 40 years until 1972.[4] During his tenure, he led the Kentucky Wildcats to four NCAA crowns in 1948, 1949, 1951 and 1958.[3] The Wildcats later won a fifth championship under Joe B. Hall in 1978, another in 1996 under Rick Pitino, in 1998 under Orlando "Tubby" Smith, and its most recent in 2012 under Coach John Calipari.[3] Calipari has been the coach since the 2009-10 season.

The Kentucky cheerleaders at Rupp Arena during a basketball game

In 2007, the university unveiled the Joe Craft Center, a $30 million state-of-the-art basketball practice facility for both the men's and women's teams.


Considered to be an elite NCAA basketball program, the University of Kentucky men's basketball team is the winningest program in the history of college basketball. The team was the first ever Division I squad to reach 2,000 victories after defeating Drexel University on December 21, 2009.[5] Kentucky also leads all NCAA schools in all-time winning percentage (.762) with an all-time record of 2111–661.

The men's team has earned a total of eight NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championships, second only to UCLA's eleven championships. UK's eight championships were won by five different coaches – Adolph Rupp in 1948, 1949, 1951 and 1958, Joe B. Hall in 1978, Rick Pitino in 1996, Tubby Smith in 1998, and John Calipari in 2012. Kentucky's 1933 and 1954 teams were also awarded the Helms national championship, and his 1934, 1947, and 1948 teams were retroactively recognized as the national champion by the Premo-Porretta Power Poll.[6][7][8] The Wildcats also won two NIT Championships in 1946 and 1976. The program has garnered 45 SEC regular season titles. Since the 2009-10 season, John Calipari has coached the Wildcats with a "one-and-done" approach to recruiting, resulting in freshman-laden lineups - including a record 5 first round draft picks in the 2010 NBA Draft and 6 Wildcats taken in the 2012 NBA Draft.


The very first University of Kentucky women's basketball team was organized in 1902, competing for the first time on Feb. 21, 1903. However, in 1924, the University Senate passed a bill to abolish women's basketball in part because "basketball had proven to be a strenuous sport for boys and therefore was too strenuous for girls." After a 50-year absence, women's basketball finally reached varsity status in 1974. The team was given the nickname "Lady Kats" and was coached by Sue Feamster.[9]

Led by UK all-time leading scorer Valerie Still, Patty Jo Hedges, and Lea Wise, the Lady Kats won the SEC Tournament in 1982. The following year, the same trio led the team to a #4 ranking in the country, the highest in the team's history.

The team is currently coached by Matthew Mitchell, named as the SEC Coach of the Year in 2010 after leading the 2009–10 team to a surprising 28–8 season in which they set school records for best start, most consecutive SEC wins, best SEC finish, and most wins in a season, culminating in their first NCAA regional final since 1982. The team also had the conference Player of the Year in Victoria Dunlap and Freshman of the Year in A'dia Mathies.


Kentucky plays at Commonwealth Stadium, which replaced Stoll Field in 1973.

Paul "Bear" Bryant era

Paul "Bear" Bryant was Kentucky's head football coach for eight seasons. Under Bryant the Wildcats won the 1947 Great Lakes Bowl, lost the 1950 Orange Bowl, won the 1951 Sugar Bowl and the 1952 Cotton Bowl Classic. In final AP polls, the Wildcats were ranked #11 in 1949, #7 in 1950, #15 in 1951, #20 in 1952 and #16 in 1953. At the time of the win over #1 Oklahoma, the final polls were taken before the bowl games.

Fran Curci era

The 1976 Wildcats retroactively claimed a share of the Southeastern Conference championship under coach Fran Curci via a loss later forfeited by Mississippi State (and despite losing at home to conference champion Georgia) and won the Peach Bowl, finishing #18 in the final AP poll. The 1977 Kentucky team went 10–1 and was undefeated in SEC play but, despite finishing the season ranked #6 in the AP poll, did not play in a bowl game due to NCAA sanctions. Kentucky finished at #6 and Penn State at #5 despite the fact that Kentucky defeated Penn State at Penn State during the regular season.

Jerry Claiborne era

Coach Jerry Claiborne led the Wildcats to the 1983 Hall of Fame Bowl. In 1984 Kentucky returned to the Hall of Fame Bowl and defeated a ranked Wisconsin team to finish the season with a 9–3 record and a #19 ranking in the final AP poll.

Bill Curry era

The Wildcats played in the 1993 Peach Bowl under coach Bill Curry.

Hal Mumme era

Coach Hal Mumme led the Wildcats to the 1998 Outback Bowl and the 1999 Music City Bowl but the program was hit with severe sanctions for infractions during Mumme's tenure.

Guy Morriss era

Under coach Guy Morriss the Wildcats posted a 7–5 record in 2002 but were not eligible for postseason play due to NCAA sanctions.

Rich Brooks era

Coach Rich Brooks led the team to an 8–5 regular season record in 2006, including a memorable upset over the defending SEC champion Georgia, snapping a nine-game losing streak to the Bulldogs. Brooks also led the football team to its first bowl game since 1999 and its first bowl game victory since 1984, as Kentucky defeated the Clemson University Tigers 28–20 in the Music City Bowl.[10] On September 15, 2007. Brooks led UK to a 40–34 win over #9 Louisville. This marked UK's first win over a top 10 team since #4 Penn State in 1977. The Wildcats were ranked 8th in the nation before a loss to South Carolina on October 4. After the loss to South Carolina, Kentucky bounced back on October 13 to defeat #1 LSU in an historic triple overtime game.

The 2007 Kentucky Wildcats football defeated the Florida State Seminoles 35–28 in the 2007 Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee, on December 31, 2007. It was the Wildcats second straight bowl appearance. Quarterback Andre' Woodson was named the Music City Bowl MVP for the second year in a row. The last three bowl appearances for the Cats have been in the Music City Bowl, which they have appeared in more than any other SEC team in the conference's affiliation with the game, which dates back to the inaugural game in 1998.

On January 2, 2009 Kentucky football set a record with the school's first back to back to back bowl games. After a bad start in the Liberty Bowl Kentucky made a comeback from a 16–3 deficit at halftime to beat East Carolina 25–19. After a fumble by the East Carolina running back, UK Defensive Tackle Ventrell Jenkins returned the ball over 50 yards for the score that gave Kentucky their first lead of the game.

Joker Phillips era

Former Wildcat wide receiver and longtime assistant coach Joker Phillips was formally named head coach January 6, 2010 after Brooks' retirement.[11] Phillips took Kentucky to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Alabama in his first season as a head coach, losing to Big East Conference co-champion Pittsburgh 27-10. However, the Wildcats would not return to a bowl in either of the next two seasons. The main highlight of those years came in 2011, when Kentucky defeated Tennessee for the first time since 1984. Phillips was fired in November 2012, effective at season's end.

Mark Stoops era

Phillips was replaced by Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops, younger brother of Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops.


The baseball program, partly hampered by being the northernmost school in the heavily warm-weather SEC, has historically achieved only modest success at best. Wildcats baseball hit bottom at the turn of the 21st century, with only one winning season from 1997 through 2004, and last-place finishes in the SEC East division in every season from 2001 through 2005. In 2003, after the retirement of longtime coach Keith Madison, Kentucky hired Florida assistant John Cohen as head coach. Cohen was able to lead the Cats to a winning overall season in 2005, despite another SEC cellar finish. In 2008, Cohen left Kentucky to accept the coaching position at Mississippi State University. The current Wildcats coach is former Kentucky assistant Gary Henderson.

Few could have expected the Cinderella season the Cats would have in 2006. They literally went from worst to first in the SEC, winning a regular-season conference title for the first time in three decades, and being ranked as high as fourth in the country by one major baseball poll during the season. However, the newly energized Kentucky baseball faithful saw the Cats crash out of the SEC tournament early and fail to make it out of the regionals of the NCAA tournament at home.

In 2012, Kentucky garnered its most successful season ever in program history. Henderson was voted SEC Coach of the Year by the league coaches. Henderson directed the Wildcats to a school-record 45-win season, with UK completing its best finishes in the SEC and NCAA Tournaments in school annals. The 2012 season also marked the first time that UK had ever been ranked No. 1. UK finished the season with a No. 11 ranking by Baseball America. UK also achieved a program record by winning seven of ten series in SEC play. UK also ran up a school-record 22-game winning streak, which is the second longest in SEC history.

In 2014, Kentucky produced its first ever College Baseball National Player of the Year in A. J. Reed. During the regular season Reed was 11-2 with a 2.10 earned-run average on the mound and at the plate led the nation in home runs (23) — more than 193 entire Division I teams — slugging percentage (.768) and OPS (1.259). Reed also won SEC Player of the Year honors. The Wildcats made it to the Semifinals of the SEC Tournament and played in the Louisville regional of the 2014 NCAA Tournament.


University of Kentucky Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart hired Rachel Lawson in July 2007. Since Lawson's hire she has become the winningest coach in program history. She has also guided UK to four NCAA Super Regionals since 2011 including an appearance in the 2014 College World Series, the program's first.

Now sitting at 276-199 in her eight seasons at Kentucky, Lawson is the winningest head coach in school history and already has more wins in SEC play than UK had total as a program when she took over in 2007. UK also finished 2013 in the top 14 of both collegiate softball rankings for the second time in school history with nine wins over ranked teams.

Another accomplishment since Lawson's hire in 2007 is the integration of John Cropp Stadium. The facility cost $9.5 million, and debuted for the 2013 season. UK hosted the 2013 SEC Tournament as well as an NCAA regional, another first for the program.


The University of Kentucky cheerleaders have won the UCA (Division I-A) Cheerleading Championship 20 times, more than any other school. They are the only school to win more than two consecutive championships, having won each year from 1995 through 2002 and from 2004 through 2006, and are the only school to win consecutive championships on multiple occasions, having done so four times (1987–1988, 1995–2002, 2004–2006, and 2008–2010). They have won championships in 1985, 1987, 1988, 1992, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2014; have also placed second four times, and have finished in the top ten every year since the existence of the UCA National College Championships.[12] The squad has been featured on the "CBS Evening News", Connie Chung's "Eye to Eye", and the "CBS Morning Show", NBC's The Today Show, in "Southern Living" and Gentlemen's Quarterly, "ESPN the Magazine", and "Seventeen" magazines.

A reality show on WE: Women's Entertainment called "Cheerleader U." followed the team during the 2006–2007 season.


The men's and women's golf teams call the University Club of Kentucky their home course. Notable alumni of the golf team include 1967 Masters Tournament winner Gay Brewer, current PGA Tour golfers J. B. Holmes and Steve Flesch, and current Champions Tour golfer Russ Cochran.


Men's tennis

The University of Kentucky Men's Tennis Team is coached by longtime assistant coach and former All-American Cedric Kauffmann. They play their home matches at the Boone Tennis Center since January 1986. They have won the SEC Regular Season title twice (1992,2012) and the SEC tournament once (1992)


The co-ed Rifle team is coached by Harry Mullins. It began as a club sport in 1982. UK won the team national championship in 2011, as well as the title in smallbore. Ethan Settlemires won the individual smallbore national title in 2011, and Connor Davis took the national title in air rifle in 2014.


NCAA team championships

Kentucky has won 10 NCAA team national championships.[13]

Other national team championships

The following national tournament championship was not bestowed by the NCAA:

Notable non varsity teams


UK has a men's hockey team that competes at club level, which means that it is student-operated without university assistance, and they compete in the American Collegiate Hockey Association's Division II level.

The University of Kentucky Hockey Team (founded 1984) competes in the American Collegiate Hockey Association. The "coolcats" play their home games at the Lexington Ice Center. Traditionally the team ranks as the 3rd most popular spectator sport behind Football and Basketball. The hockey program is funded by private funds outside of the athletic department. In 1998 the cats released their first poster featuring actress and UK alum Ashley Judd. Since the debut of the first poster, the cats have issued an annual poster featuring a celebrity with ties to the bluegrass. The program has achieved great success including 3 national tournament appearances, 1992 national runner-up, and 18 winning seasons.

Recently, the Cool Cats simply became the Wildcats. The Wildcats have made a couple good runs the past couple of seasons. This included a regional bid in the 06-07and lost in the final game of the tournament. in the 2007–08 season the cats finished in the national tournament failing to make it out of pool play. All home games are played at the Lexington Ice Center at midnight and the arena is generally full. Still a major sport on UK's campus.

Rugby program

The University of Kentucky Rugby Club was founded in 1970.[14] The club was organized by an engineering professor Dr. Roy Elmore and two of his students Larry Sonnifield and Rick Wunderlich. The team began competing in the fall of 1971 and quickly become a power in the newly formed SEC Conference. Since its inception the size and success of the club has grown. Kentucky has been named SEC champion three times, first in 1979 then again in 1986 and 1987, along with numerous runner-up honors.

The program currently plays college rugby in Division I in the Southeastern Collegiate Rugby Conference. This conference is made up of the traditional SEC teams, and divided into East and West.

The program has an internationally experienced head coach (Tony Vince), and two other full-time coaches. While rugby at UK is not considered a varsity sport and does not have the budget of football or basketball, the program includes three full-time coaches, travel throughout the SEC, and recruiting. The program also offers a limited amount of scholarship funding to rugby players.[15] The UK staff spends a lot of their time recruiting at the high school level. The program funds itself with the support of an alumni base that puts together many events throughout the year. This is capped off each year with an Alumni Game where the old boys play against the present UK squad.


The University of Kentucky has three official mascots:

All-time records by sport

All records are through 2005-2006 except Men's and Women's Basketball, Volleyball, Football, Men's Soccer, Baseball, and Softball all updated as of September 14, 2015.

Sport First
Win Loss Tie Win Pct.
Baseball 1896 1752167326 .507
Basketball (men) 1903–04 21786731 .764
Basketball (women) 1974–75 702486 .591
Football 1881 58959944 .485
Soccer (men) 1991 25719061 .506
Soccer (women) 1992 16711425 .546
Softball 1997 5186041 .461
Tennis (men) 1916 9745648 .630
Tennis (women) 1974 516300 .632
Volleyball 1977 8174841 .628
Overall Record 84705697167 .590

See also


  1. Kentucky Wildcats teams compete in the Southeastern Conference for all sports excluding men's soccer and rifle, which respectively compete in Conference USA and the Great America Rifle Conference.


  1. "University of Kentucky Athletics Brand Identity". 2016-02-05. Retrieved 2016-08-20.
  2. 1 2 3 "University of Kentucky Traditions". University of Kentucky. January 20, 2015. Retrieved March 23, 2015.
  3. 1 2 3 4 "History Briefs". University of Kentucky. 2007-05-23. Archived from the original on 2007-10-26.
  4. "A Chronology of UK". University of Kentucky Special Collections & Digital Programs Division. 2 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-01-02.
  5. "NBC Sports". NBC Sports.
  6. "Sorry".
  8. ESPN, ed. (2009). ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Men's Game. New York, NY: ESPN Books. pp. 543–83. ISBN 978-0-345-51392-2.
  9. "Women's Basketball Timeline" (PDF). University of Kentucky. 2005. Retrieved 2007-05-05.
  10. "The Tennessean-Dickson". The Tennessean.
  11. WKYT. "Phillips introduced as UK football coach".
  14. "Presenting your UKRFC for Spring 2014", University of Kentucky Rugby Football Club, January 21, 2013. Retrieved February 18, 2015.
  15. "Kentucky Players Earn Scholarships", Goff Rugby Report, February 18, 2015.
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