Kentucky Wildcats History

The official nickname for the University of Kentucky's athletics teams is "Wildcats." The nickname became synonymous with UK shortly after a 6-2 football victory over Illinois on Oct. 9, 1909, on the road.

Commandant Carbusier, 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.

Blue and White

The University of Kentucky 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, 1891.

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.

Rupp Arena

Adolph Rupp is synonymous with winning. As coach of Kentucky, he was a pioneer in the Wildcats’ fast-break offense while becoming the winningest coach the game had ever seen.

The site that now serves as a tribute to his outstanding coaching accomplishments – Rupp Arena – has become one of the most recognizable gymnasiums in the world while serving as home to college basketball’s most storied program.

The 1965-66 UK team earned this nickname because the tallest man among the Wildcats starting five was guard Tommy Kron, at 6-5. Center Thad Jaracz, who worked his way into the starting lineup, was also 6-5, while forwards Larry Conley and Pat Riley were 6-4 and guard Louie Dampier was 6-0. The team became one of Rupp’s favorites during his long tenure at Kentucky. Before the season started, Rupp commented, “I honestly believe that man-for-man we just might have in the making a better team than we had in 1958, when we won the national championship.” The Runts did indeed turn out to be one of the outstanding teams in UK’s glorious history, compiling a sparkling 27-2 record, but coming just one win shy of the NCAA title when upset by Texas Western (now UTEP) in the finals, 72-65. During the 1990-91 season, UK honored Rupp’s Runts on the silver anniversary of their
NCAA runner-up season.

The Teams of Tradition
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