A Tribute To
Mr. Wildcat, Bill Keightley



To Be Continued


Equipment Manager of the Wildcats

Bill Gillispie's Statement From Cincinnati
Upon Learning of Mr. Wildcat's passing:

This is one of the saddest days of my life,” head coach Billy Gillispie said from Cincinnati Monday night. “I commented earlier today that at the age of 81, he's become one of my very best friends, and the person I was talking to said "that's what makes him so great, because everyone feels he's their best friend". And that's because he was so genuine and so caring about others.

He influenced each of us on a daily basis, and he was a great example of someone who loved his University more than anything. Obviously, he's in a better place, but the void he leaves for all of us, and especially his family, is going to be a difficult situation. Our hearts go out to his family and the millions of Wildcats fans who he loved so much.

Mr. Wildcat Was 81 Years Young

On March 31, 2008, Mr. Wildcat, Bill Keightley fell from a bus in Cincinnati as he arrived at the ball park to see the opening day of the 2008 baseball season. Mr. Keightley sustained fatal injuries in his fall, and the Big Blue Nation entered a period of mourning for the loss of Mr. Wildcat. Bill Keightley served the UK Basketball program continuously from 1962 through the end of the 2008 basketball season. He served Coaches Rupp, Hall, Sutton, Pitino, Smith, and Gilllispie with great distinction and honor. Mr. Wildcat became a one man instistution and his name is synonomous with Kentucky Wildcat basketball.

Read More About These Events Here


Mr. Wildcat Receives "State" Funeral

The man known as "Mr. Wildcat" will be laid to rest this week and the public will have a chance to pay their respects.

The public viewing for Bill Keightley will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday, in the Rupp Arena lobby. That line will close at 3 p.m., so preparations can begin for the public memorial which begins at 6 p.m.

Several current and former Kentucky basketball players, coaches and managers are expected to be in attendance. Numerous elected officials will be there as well.

The University of Kentucky confirms that coach Billy Gillispie and former coaches Joe B. Hall, and Rick Pitino will be speaking at the service.

Dr. Everett McCorvey, who is head of UK's School of Music, will be singing a few selections during the service.

The Keightley family has selected Father Ed Bradley to be the officiant.

To view some of the Eulogies Presented CLICK HERE

See the Keightley Memorial Service Program CLICK HERE

UK President Lee Todd's Statement
About Mr. Wildcat's passing:

For many Kentuckians, and, indeed, for much of the country, Bill Keightley was not only the face of UK Wildcat basketball, but the University of Kentucky itself. In his five decades with the university, Mr. Keightley represented UK and the Big Blue Nation with class, with devotion and with an abiding love for our players and fans. He was as much a part of the basketball program as any player or coach. He was 'Mr. Wildcat.' An entire state tonight – from Paducah to Pikeville -- is mourning his passing and, I'm sure, remembering his family in prayer along with Patsy and me. It's my belief that in heaven he's already helping organize a game or two and telling stories of Wildcat lore to anyone who will listen.


UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart's Statement
About Mr. Wildcat's passing:

Mr. Bill embodied the optimism and love of life that epitomizes all of Kentucky. He was one of those individuals who make everyone around them feel special. His love of Kentucky was evident in everything he did. He was a friend to all who loved the Wildcats, and I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to call him my friend.


UK Football Coach Rich Brooks' Statement
About Mr. Wildcat's passing:

The first thing I'd like to say is that I'm really sorry about Bill Keightley," Brooks said. "Whenever I saw him the last two years, he was so happy and proud of what we were doing on the football field. He was just a positive gentleman in his life. Everything I've read has been about basketball, but he loved everything at this university. He loved football. He loved the success we had, told me many times. I feel extremely sorry for his family and wish them all well.

The Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame


Class of 2007

One of the great fixtures in University of Kentucky basketball, Keightley began his career as UK Equipment Manager in 1962.  He is the only person in the history of the program to work for Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith. Affectionately known as “Mr. Wildcat,”  UK honored Keightley in 1997 with a retired jersey in his honor.


Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interviews with William B. Keightley, 2005-2007.
The William B. Keightley Oral History Project contains 20 interviews, spanniing over 40 hours of in depth conversation with Mr. Wildcat about topics ranging from family life to winning national championships. 

Mr. Wildcat by the numbers

  • 2: One of only two non-players or coaches to have his name hoisted into Rupp Arena rafters. The other was longtime broadcaster Cawood Ledford.
  • 3: UK NCAA titles at which Keightley sat courtside.
  • 6: Head coaches Keightley served under (Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith, Billy Gillispie).
  • 8: UK trips to Final Four at which Keightley sat courtside.
  • 12: Southeastern Conference Tournament titles during his tenure.
  • 19: All-Americans who have gone through UK in Keightley's tenure.
  • 24: Won or shared UK Southeastern Conference regular-season championships
  • 48: Seasons as equipment manager on UK bench.
  • 57: Percentage of games in the 105-year history of UK basketball in which Keightley worked.
  • 1,113: Wins he witnessed from UK bench.

A Younger Mr. Wildcat:

Having just completed his 48th season on the UK sidelines, the Wildcats' record over the past four decades with Keightley as equipment manager is 1,113-351. During his tenure, he served under six UK head coaches — Adolph Rupp, Joe B. Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino, Orlando “Tubby” Smith and Billy Gillispie.

Kentucky, which has fielded 105 teams, has played 2,588; meaning Keightley played a role in 57 percent of those games.

In 1997, UK honored Keightley with a retired jersey in his honor. He joins veteran broadcaster Cawood Ledford as the only non-player or coach to have a jersey retired at UK. Keightley was also among 88 Wildcat greats inducted into the charter class of the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005.

Continue Onward and Upward Mr. Wildcat


Tom Leach has done some great work in the last couple of days in getting folks associated with UK basketball past and present to talk about Bill Keightley. Here are some of the interviews:

Ralph Hacker

Eddie Sutton

Tubby Smith
[See Note at Bottom of this Page]

Sean Woods

John Pelphrey

Richie Farmer

Jack Givens





Bill "Mr. Wildcat" Keightley Comments
On Kentucky Basketball Over the Years

The photographs and quotes are a compilation from many news reports, press releases, and other public sources on the Internet.


Slide Show of Mr. Wildcat at UKAA Website

Go Back

Note: On April 3, 2008, Tubby Smith agreed to speak in remembrance of Bill "Mr. Wildcat" Keightley at the Memorial Service held at Rupp Arena. Tubby Smith was a NO SHOW. I have left the link to this Tom Leach interview with Tubby Smith active simply out of respect for a complete documentary record. In no way should the presence of this link indicate any support for Tubby Smith or his statements, such as they are, with respect to Mr. Wildcat.

Copyright 2008
SugarHill Communications of Kentucky
All Rights Reserved