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The History of Kentucky Wildcat Sports & their Rivals


Brief history : The Kentucky Wildcats are the men’s and women’s   intercollegiate (between college’s)  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. Their main and most hated rival is the University of Louisville        


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: Kroger Field

Basketball arena: Rupp Arena (men) Memorial Coliseum (women)

Baseball stadium: Kentucky Proud Park

Mascot: Blue, Scratch, and The Wildcat

Nickname: Wildcats

Fight song: On, On, U of K, Kentucky Fight

Colors: Blue and White[1]




Sports sponsored by the University of Kentucky

Men’s sports                              Women’s sports

Baseball.                                     Basketball

Basketball                                  Cross country

Cross country.                         Golf

Football                                     Gymnastics

Golf.                                           Softball

Soccer                                        Soccer

Swimming & Diving            Swimming and Diving

Tennis                                       Tennis

Track & field†.                       Track & Field†





The Kentucky Wildcats football program represents the University of Kentucky in the sport of American football. The Wildcats compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Eastern Division of the Southeastern Conference (SEC). The Wildcats play their home games at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky and are currently led by head coach Mark Stoops.


Early history

M. Miller, Kentucky’s first head football coach

Until about 1913, the modern University of Kentucky was referred to as “Kentucky State College” and nearby Transylvania University was known as “Kentucky University”. In 1880, Kentucky University and Centre College played the first intercollegiate football game in Kentucky.

Kentucky State first fielded a football team in 1881, playing three games against rival Kentucky University. The team was revived in 1891. Both the inaugural 1881 squad and the revived 1891 squad have unknown coaches according to university records in winning two games and losing three. The 1891 team’s colors were blue and light yellow, decided before the Centre–Kentucky game on December 19.

A student asked “What color blue?” and varsity letterman Richard C. Stoll pulled off his necktie, and held it up. This is still held as the origin of Kentucky’s shade of blue. The next year light yellow was dropped and changed to white.[6] The 1892 team was coached by A. M. Miller, and went 2–4–1.  I bet not too many fans of Big Blue Nation knew the original team colors where Blue and Yellow.

The greatest UK team of this era was the 1898 squad, known simply to Kentuckians as “The Immortals.” To this day, the Immortals remain the only undefeated, untied, and unscored upon team in UK football history. The Immortals were coached by W. R. Bass and ended the year a perfect 7–0–0, despite an average weight of 147 pounds per player. Victories came easily for this squad, as the Immortals raced by Kentucky University (18- 0), Georgetown (28–0), Company H of the 8th Massachusetts (59–0), Louisville Athletic Club (16–0), Centre (6–0), 160th Indiana (17–0) and Newcastle Athletic Club (36–0).

Head coach Jack Wright led the team to a 7–1 record in 1903, losing only to rival and southern champion Kentucky University.

Fred Schacht posted a 15–4–1 record in two seasons but died unexpectedly after his second season. J. White Guyn also had success leading the Wildcats, posting a 17–7–1 record in his three years.

Edwin Sweetland went 16–3 in three seasons (1909–1910 and 1912) but resigned due to poor health.[7] Sweetland also served as Kentucky’s first athletics director.[7] The 1909 team upset the Illinois Fighting Illini. Upon their welcome home, Philip Carbusier said that they had “fought like wildcats,” a nickname that stuck.

John J. Tigert coached Kentucky for two seasons (1915–1916) with each season having one loss. 1915 captain Charles C. Schrader was All-Southern. The 1916 team fought the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (SIAA) co-champion Tennessee Volunteers to a scoreless tie. The year’s only a loss, 45 to 0 to the Irby Curry-led Vanderbilt Commodores, was the dedication of Stoll Field. Quarterbacks Curry and Kentucky’s Doc Rodes were both selected All-Southern at year’s end. Vanderbilt coach Dan McGugin stated “If you would give me Doc Rodes, I would say he was a greater player than Curry.”

Coach Harry Gamage had a 32–25–5 record during his seven seasons from 1927 to 1933. A.D. Kirwan, who would go on to be the president of the university, coached the Wildcats from 1938 to 1944 and posted a 24–28–4 record in those six seasons.

Longtime athletics director Bernie Shively also served as Kentucky’s head football coach for the 1945 season.  Many Big Blue fans of today have heard long time fans revere to “Shively Field”



Most Kentucky Fans have many teams they consider rivals base upon a number of factors including family dynamic.  However I research indicates if you asked Big Blue Nation, who are the most hated wildcat rivals, these 4 teams are going to be on most University of Kentucky fans list.

An in state school that has always created great rivalry that was compounded when former UK Coach Rick Pitino left Kentucky for the NBA and then returned to college coaching to coach the Louisville Cardinals.





A boarded state school that was a power house football team back in the days o Peyton Manning.  Kentucky and Tennessee basketball teams have had great games on the court,but UK has come out on top over 70% of the time.  The hatred for Tennessee really bubbled up on the early 70’s when Tennessee featured what is now commonly known as the Ernie & Bernie Show.  During one game with Kentucky these Bernie switched with Ernie to shoot his free throws that won the game for Tennessee and went unrecognized by referees and most fans until the free throws had already sealed the game
















Kentucky’s hatred or Indian comes naturally because it is boarder state, but it can really be summed up in one name  Bobby Knight.  The loud mouth, obnoxious coach who never had a kind word to say about anything or anybody after a Kentucky defeat.



Ask any longtime Kentucky Fan and they can tell you about the UnForgettables, Duke and Christian Laitner.



Conference affiliations     

Independent (1881–1895)

Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (1896–1904)[citation needed]

Independent (1905–1911)[citation needed]

Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association (1912–1921)[citation needed]

Southern Conference (1922–1932)

Southeastern Conference (1933–present)



Kentucky National Football Championships   

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.     

The polls for the 1950 national champion, taken before the bowl games were played, list either Oklahoma (AP, Berryman, Helms, Litkenhous, UPI, Williamson), Princeton (Boand, Poling), or Tennessee (Billingsley, DeVold, Dunkel, Missouri, Don Faurot Football Research, National Championship Foundation, Sagarin (ELO-Chess)). Tennessee was the winner of the Cotton Bowl and the only team to beat Kentucky during the 1950 season. Oklahoma was named National Champion by AP and UPI Coaches’ Poll, both which awarded their titles before the bowl games. Kentucky would go on to beat Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl.


Conference championship

Kentucky has won two conference championships, both in the Southeastern Conference. Kentucky also finished the 1977 season with a 10–1 (6–0 SEC) record, but were not eligible for a share of the SEC championship or for postseason play due to NCAA probation.




Main article: Governor’s Cup (Kentucky)

First played in 1912, Louisville-Kentucky football series was revived in 1994 after the success of the basketball series that restarted in 1983. They played the first four games of the renewed series at Commonwealth Stadium (now Kroger Field) until Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium (PJCS) was completed in 1997, at which time they began rotating the series between Louisville, Kentucky and Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky leads the series 16-15, but trails the modern series 15-10. Kentucky played Louisville in the Cardinals’ first 4 seasons and twice in the 1920s, holding the Cardinals scoreless in all contests. Kentucky then left the SIAA in 1922 to become a charter member of the Southeastern Conference and limited its play of in-state schools. It would be 70 years before these two in-state rivals faced each other again.


In 2013, it was announced that the game would be moved to the final game of the season following Louisville’s 2014 move to the ACC. This scheduling change fits with other end-of-year SEC vs. ACC rivalry games, such as Georgia vs. Georgia Tech, Florida vs. Florida State and South Carolina vs. Clemson.


In 2018, Kentucky beat Louisville 56-10, winning by the largest margin since the rivalry restarted in 1994. The largest ever win in the rivalry was also by Kentucky which they won 73-0 in 1922, before the series went dormant.


Kentucky leads the series 16–15 as of the conclusion of the 2018 football Season.



Kentucky National Basketball Championships




Kentucky is the most successful NCAA Division I basketball program in history in terms of both all-time wins (2,293) and all-time winning percentage (.765).

Kentucky leads all schools in total NCAA tournament appearances (59), NCAA tournament wins (131), NCAA Tournament games played (184), NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearances (45), NCAA Elite Eight appearances (38), and total postseason tournament appearances (68).

Kentucky has played in 17 NCAA Final Fours (tied for 2nd place all-time with UCLA), 12 NCAA Championship games, and has won 8 NCAA championships (second only to UCLA’s 11). In addition to these titles, Kentucky won the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in both 1946 and 1976, making it the only school to win multiple NCAA and NIT championships. Kentucky also leads all schools with sixty-three 20-win seasons, sixteen 30-win seasons, and six 35-win seasons.

Throughout its history, the Kentucky basketball program has featured many notable and successful players, both on the collegiate level and the professional level. Kentucky holds the record for the most overall NBA Draft selections (128) and three Wildcats have been selected as the first overall pick (John Wall, Anthony Davis, and Karl Anthony-Towns).

The Wildcats have also been led by many successful head coaches, including Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith, and John Calipari. Kentucky is the only program with 5 different NCAA Championship coaches (Rupp, Hall, Pitino, Smith, Calipari).

Three Kentucky coaches have been enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame: Rupp, Pitino, and Calipari. Former Wildcat players that have gone on to become head coaches include C.M. Newton, Pat Riley, Dan Issel, Dwane Casey, John Pelphrey, Steve Masiello, and Travis Ford and others.

The landscape of college basketball has become much more competitive in recent years.  Coach John Calipari has recieved great criticism for being an early adopter in the what is commonly called the One-and-Done philosophy that all top NCAA coaches now adopt.   John Calipari has his haters, even within the state of Kentucky.

However what he has done for this state and the kids that have come though this program is undeniable for any fan that has eyes to see. We believe he will go down in history as the greatest coach to ever coach at Kentucky, for one reason.  He understands, truly understand it is about the kids that he coaches, their families, and the positive impact they can have on the people around them and ultimately the world.

Say what you want about Kentucky basketball and John Calipari, the world is a better place because he is here, and the example he sets.  Many people, talk the talk, but John Caparis walk, is well documented and appreciated by many Big Blue Nation fans, including all o us here at Wildcat Gifts!

We will enjoy every moment of every season while we patiently wait for #9, because we KNOW IT IS COMING!





2019-09-18T18:53:53+00:00September 18th, 2019|Comments Off on The History of Kentucky Wildcat Sports & their Rivals