The Kentucky Wildcats are the men’s and women’s intercollegiate athletic squads of the University of Kentucky, a founding member of the Southeastern Conference. The Kentucky Wildcats is the student body of the University of Kentucky. 30,473 students attend the university. 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. Their main and most intense rival is the University of Louisville. The Wildcats are composed of 19 varsity teams that compete nationally.
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.
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 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. The basketball program began on campus in 1902, originally as a women’s sport; During his tenure, he led the Kentucky Wildcats to four NCAA crowns in 1948, 1949, 1951 and 1958. 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 National Basketball Association Draft and 6 Wildcats taken in the 2012 National Basketball Association Draft.
The very first University of Kentucky women’s basketball team was organized in 1902, competing for the first time on February 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 Debbie Yow.
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 was previously 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.
The team is now coached by Kyra Elzy, who took the position in December 2020. The Wildcats would upset top-ranked South Carolina in the 2022 SEC Women’s Basketball Tournament finals.
Kentucky plays at Kroger Field, 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 1951 Sugar Bowl win over #1 Oklahoma, the final polls were taken before the bowl games. The NCAA has never officially recognized a national champion from among the bowl coalition institutions, but in 2004 the NCAA commissioned Jeff Sagarin to use his computer model to retroactively determine the highest ranked teams for the years prior to the BCS. His champion for the 1950 season is Kentucky.
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 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 2006 Music City Bowl. On September 15, 2007. Brooks led UK to a 40–34 win over number 9 ranked 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. 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. Stoops has gone on to become the winningest coach in Kentucky’s history. In 2018, Stoops and Kentucky had arguably the best season in program history going 10–3 and beating Penn State 27–24 in the 2019 Citris Bowl which was led by 2019 7th overall pick Josh Allen and all-time leading rusher Benny Snell. Stoops also led Kentucky to win the Belk Bowl along with the Gator Bowl.
During the 2021 Football season the University of Kentucky Wildcats have made history. The football team has qualified to compete in the Bowl. The Wildcats started the season out very strong. Later the team defeated the University of Florida Gators, scoring 13-20.
“The Kentucky Wildcats have made it to the toughest stretch of their schedule unscathed, and must use the confidence from their wins as the No. 1 Florida Gators roll into town for a Saturday SEC East showdown.
No. 23 Kentucky faces No. 10 Florida at 6 p.m. Saturday on ESPN. Florida leads the all-time series, 53-18. The Gators have won the last two games in the series, including a 34-10 win in Gainesville last season and a 29-21 win in Lexington in 2019.”
The Wildcats baseball team began play in their new stadium, Kentucky Proud Park, in fall 2018, replacing Cliff Hagan Stadium, where they had played since 1969.
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…
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