How Kentucky Became The Wildcats

How Kentucky Became The Wildcats

As part of an ongoing series here at Last Word On College Football, we are focusing on college traditions. Today the focus is in Lexington and the University of Kentucky. Last time, the school’s fight song was featured. If you missed that post you can check it out here.

In the next part of this series, the focus is on How Kentucky became the Wildcats.

It Took One Quote to Name the Team

While the history of Kentucky Football traces back to 1881, it wasn’t until 28 years later that the school got a nickname. The Kentucky State College, as it was known then, defeated Illinois 6-2 on October 9, 1909.

The next day, Commandant Phillip W. Corbusier, head of the Military Department, told a group of students at a chapel service the team “had fought like Wildcats.” The name gained more and more popularity with students, fans and the media. As a result, the nickname “Wildcats” was officially adopted by the school.

Finally An Actual Mascot

It took some 67 years from the time the school adopted the name Wildcats before Kentucky had an actual mascot. During the 1976-77 season, student Gary Tanner donned the cat outfit to entertain the crowds at football and basketball games.

During the early 1980’s, Kentucky Basketball had their “Twin Towers” in Melvin Turpin and Sam Bowie. To coincide with the team, the Wildcats unveiled a mascot on stilts who walked around both Commonwealth Stadium and Rupp Arena. After they graduated in 1984, the idea was quickly dropped.

In later years, a new more child-friendly mascot “Scratch” debuted to great popularity. Scratch has even competed in the Capital One Mascot Challenge on several occasions. The mascot serves as the host of the Kentucky Junior Wildcat Club.

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The Wildcat and Scratch

Kentucky does have one more mascot, a live bobcat named “Blue”, who lives at the Salato Wildlife Center in the state capitol of Frankfort. Fans can go and meet Blue there since he will never attend an actual game. Bobcats by nature are very shy and do not like crowds.





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If you are visiting Central Kentucky, you should definitely plan a stop to Salato and see the Kentucky Wildcat in person. Log onto for more information.

Thanks for checking out this second history installment on how Kentucky became the Wildcats. In the final part of the history series, we will take a look at Kentucky’s signature colors and what they almost were. Hint: it is not blue and white.

It is hard to believe, but there’s only about two months until football season begins. Previews of all the positions on the 2017 Kentucky team are forthcoming. Expectations are as high as they have been in a decade for Mark Stoops‘ fifth Wildcat squad.

Thanks for reading and for checking out all the content here at Last Word on College Football. Have any comments or anything you would like to see featured? Send a tweet to @kevinmcguffey.

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