History and Tradition
From UK's first All-American, Clyde Johnson, to its most recent, Trevard Lindley; from Professor A.M. Miller to Coach Joker Phillips; from old Stoll Field to Commonwealth Stadium; from the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association to the Southeastern Conference; and with all the ensuing changes, Kentucky football holds a unique and storied tradition that began in 1881.
UK football holds a captivating list of firsts: UK was the first South eastern Conference team to introduce football, which it did in 1881; UK played in the first and only Great Lakes Bowl in 1947, defeating Villanova, 24-14; Kentucky tackle Bob Gain was awarded the 1950 Outland Trophy, making him the first player from the SEC to claim the honor; the Wildcats' Nat Northington was the first African-American player to sign with a South eastern Conference institution and the first to play in a league contest – vs. Ole Miss in 1967. And in 1989, UK became the first SEC school to win the coveted College Football Association Academic Achievement Award for highest graduation rate.
In 119 seasons, Kentucky has participated in 1,169 contests and owns 567 wins, 558 losses and 44 ties. The 567 victories rank 45th among NCAA Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) programs in most wins.
Kentucky football has won one national championship, two Southeastern Conference championships and appeared in 14 bowls.
UK football has had 15 National Football League first-round draft choices, one Outland Trophy winner, 22 first-team All-Americans (selected 26 times), 14 Academic All-Americans (selected 17 times), 73 first-team All-SEC players (selected 97 times), and 453 Academic All-SEC selections.
Kentucky football got its start on Nov. 12, 1881. Kentucky, known in those days as A&M College, Kentucky State College and/or State University of Kentucky, defeated Kentucky University by the clumsy score of 7 1/4 to 1. The game of football resembled more of a rugby form and the scoring procedure is still unclear. Though football came to Kentucky in 1881, it quickly vanished after the three-game season. UK finished 1-2 in the inaugural campaign, but the lid was shut on UK football for the next nine seasons.
Football returned to the University of Kentucky in 1891, when UK defeated Georgetown College, 8-2, on April 10, 1891. The sport would not again be interrupted until the 1943 season because of World War II.
The first known head football coach at Kentucky was Professor A.M. Miller, who the students asked to coach despite his admitted limited knowledge of the game. Miller began the 1892 season, then graciously stepped aside later in the year for John A. Thompson, who had more experience with the sport.
Some successful years in the early 1900s dot the UK record book. Kentucky finished 7-1 in 1903 under Coach C.A. Wright; 9-1 in 1904 under Coach F.E. Schact; 9-1-1 in 1907 with Coach J. White Guyn, and 9- 1 in 1909 under E.R. Sweetland.
The greatest UK team of that 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).
Besides Bass, two of the most successful coaches in the early stages of UK football were E.R. Sweetland and Harry Gamage. Sweetland compiled a 23-5 mark in three seasons (1909- 10, 12). His best year was 9-1 in '09. Gamage took the reins of the UK program in 1927 and remained until following the 1933 campaign. In between, Gamage led the Wildcats to a combined 32-25-5 record. His best season was 6-1-1 in '29.
One of Gamage's brightest moments came during the 1930 season. During the 57-0 blanking of Maryville, UK running back Shipwreck Kelly rushed for a school-record 280 yards in leading the Cats.
More than a decade after Gamage had left UK, a young man by the name of Paul "Bear" Bryant arrived on the scene at Lexington in 1946. Bryant quickly grabbed the UK program by the collar and turned the Cats into a national power.
Bryant took UK to eight consecutive winning seasons (1946-53) and helped the Wildcats claim their first national championship and Southeastern Conference championship in 1950. He also sent UK squads to four bowl games which included the 1947 Great Lakes Bowl, 1950 Orange Bowl, 1951 Sugar Bowl, and the 1952 Cotton Bowl.
The biggest win in UK football history came under Bryant. After leading Kentucky to its first SEC title and a 10-1 regular-season record, UK found itself matched with defending national champion Oklahoma in the 1951 Sugar Bowl. The Wildcats scored early and held off the Sooners, 13-7, breaking Oklahoma's 31-game winning streak which is currently the ninth-longest in NCAA history.
In the 1990s, research by Jeff Sagarin, who compiles the Sagarin Computer Ratings for USA Today, indicated that UK is the national champion for the 1950 season under that ranking system.
Also under Bryant, tackle Bob Gain became the first UK and SEC player to win the Outland Trophy in 1950. Other standouts in the Bryant era included George Blanda, All-American Babe Parilli, and eventual UK coach Jerry Claiborne.
Bryant left Kentucky following the 1953 season. He compiled an impressive 60-23-5 record in eight years. Bryant's 60 victories are still a UK football record for head coaches.
Blanton Collier had the task of following in Bryant's footsteps. He stayed eight years at UK as well, etching a 41-36-3 record from 1954 to 1961. Kentuckians best remember Collier for his 5-2-1 record against arch-rival Tennessee. He coached All-Americans Lou Michaels (1957-58) and Howard Schnellenberger (1955) at UK.
Charlie Bradshaw became the head mentor at UK in time for the 1962 season. Bradshaw, a UK graduate who lettered four years (1946-49), managed only a 25-41-4 record in seven seasons. One highlight of his term at UK came in 1964, a 27-21 upset of No. 1-ranked Ole Miss in Jackson, Miss.
John Ray entered the scene in 1969 as head coach. In four years, Ray was 10-33. His biggest win came during his first year as Kentucky again victimized Ole Miss and Archie Manning. The Cats upset the Rebels, 10-9, in Lexington.
The Fran Curci era began in 1973, the same year Kentucky moved from ancient Stoll Field/McLean Stadium to spacious Common-wealth Stadium. Though Curci had only one winning campaign during his first three years, things got interesting beginning with the 1976 season. UK ended the '76 year with an 8-3 record and its second SEC championship.
Kentucky helped secure its second league title on the strength of a 62-yard touchdown pass from Derrick Ramsey to Greg Woods to beat Tennessee, 7-0, at Knoxville, Tenn. The victory clinched a berth in the Peach Bowl against North Carolina, UK's first postseason appearance in 25 years. Before a UK contingent estimated at 25,000, the Cats blanked the Tar Heels, 21-0.
The following year, Kentucky went on NCAA probation. Despite an early season loss at Baylor, the Wildcats rolled to an impressive 10-1 record doing it the hard way. Kentucky defeated Penn State (24-20) in University Park, Pa., defeated LSU (33-13) in Baton Rouge, La., blanked Georgia (33-0) in Athens, Ga., beat Florida (14-7) in Gainesville, Fla., and defeated Tennessee (21-17) in Lexington.
In the Curci era, players like Sonny Collins (UK career leader with 3,835 yards rushing), All- Americans Warren Bryant and Art Still and multitalented Derrick Ramsey, wore the blue and white. In all, Curci worked nine years, the longest term of any UK head coach.
Jerry Claiborne answered the call of his alma mater in December of 1981 and was named the school's 31st head football coach. Claiborne had played at UK from 1946-49 and was an assistant coach under Bryant at UK in 1952-53.
After an 0-10-1 mark in Claiborne's first season, his 1983 squad tied for the nation's most improved program with a regular-season record of 6-4-1. As a reward, the Hall of Fame Bowl offered an invitation and UK accepted.
Kentucky improved in 1984, finishing with a 9-3 record which included a thrilling 20-19 win over Wisconsin in the '84 Hall of Fame Bowl.
Claiborne won 41 games during his eight seasons with the Wildcats. Claiborne and Bryant are the only two UK coaches to win at least five games in seven consecutive seasons.
During Claiborne's tenure, Kentucky captured the 1989 CFA Academic Achievement Award. UK led the SEC in SEC Academic Honor Roll selections (68) during the Claiborne era, including a then-league record of 17 players named to the 1989 honor roll.
Individually, quarterback Bill Ransdell played under Claiborne and left as UK's alltime leader in passing and total offense. Mark Higgs departed as the school's second-leading rusher and tackle Oliver Barnett set a UK record with 26 quarterback sacks.
After Claiborne's retirement, Bill Curry took over as head coach in 1990. Curry returned UK to the bowl scene in 1993 as the Wildcats played in the Peach Bowl.
In 1994, the Wildcats faced intrastate rival Louisville for the first time in 70 years and defeated the Cardinals 20-14 in front of a then-record 59,162 fans in Commonwealth Stadium.
The 1995 season was highlighted by tailback Moe Williams, who rushed for 1,600 yards, broke three SEC records, and broke or tied 15 school records. Williams had 429 all-purpose yards in a win at South Carolina, the secondhighest single-game total in NCAA history.
The arrival of Coach Hal Mumme in 1997 unleashed a lightning bolt of enthusiasm for Kentucky football. Mumme's dynamic "Air Raid" offense put UK among the national leaders in passing yardage and total offense and the '97 team broke or tied 51 school records and 15 Southeastern Conference records.
Kentucky returned to the bowl scene in 1998 when the Wildcats won seven games. Quarterback Tim Couch was a first-team All-American, SEC Player of the Year, and a finalist for the Heisman Trophy while rewriting NCAA, SEC, and UK record books. Wide receiver Craig Yeast became the leading pass catcher in SEC history. The Wildcats capped their season by playing Penn State in the Outback Bowl, the school's first New Year's Day bowl game in 47 years.
Following the Outback Bowl season, Commonwealth Stadium was expanded. UK enclosed both end zones and added personal suites in time for the 1999 season, boosting seating capacity to 67,606. The Wildcats celebrated the stadium expansion with another bowl season. All-America tight end James Whalen helped lead UK to the 1999 HomePoint.com Music City Bowl, marking the school's first back-to-back bowl appearances since 1983-84.
Guy Morriss coached the Wildcats in 2001- 02. He guided UK to seven wins in '02, but the Wildcats could not go to a bowl game because of NCAA probation. Derek Abney returned six kicks for touchdowns, more than any player in one season in NCAA history, and was named first-team All-America along with punter Glenn Pakulak. Pakulak emerged as the best punter in school history and won the Mosi Tatupu Award as National Special Teams Player of the Year.
Inheriting a roster weakened by probation was the major obstacle for Rich Brooks when he took over as head coach in 2003. Brooks' rebuilding efforts began bearing fruit in 2006. The Wildcats had their best season in 22 years by winning eight games, including a win over Georgia and a 28-20 upset of highly favored Clemson in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl.
Led by quarterback Andre' Woodson, tailback Rafael Little, wide receiver Keenan Burton, tight end Jacob Tamme and linebacker Wesley Woodyard, the 2007 season contained some of the most exciting moments in school history.
UK notched its first win over a Top-10 opponent in 30 years with a dramatic comeback victory over No. 9 Louisville. UK reached the Top-10 rankings for the first time since 1977 and the popular "ESPN GameDay" crew made its first visit to campus. UK also knocked off No. 1-ranked LSU -- the eventual national champion -- with a 43-37 triple-overtime thriller. The campaign was capped with another Music City Bowl win, this time over traditional power Florida State.
Led by a maturing defense, the momentum continued in the 2008 season when the Wildcats defeated East Carolina in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. That marked the first time in school history that UK won bowl games in three consecutive seasons.
Kentucky set a school record by going to a fourth-straight bowl following the 2009 season. Coach Rich Brooks retired after seven seasons, handing the reins to former Wildcat player and long-time assistant coach Joker Phillips.
Wildcat Traditions and Legends
Below is a closer look at some of the traditions and history which has molded the past 119 seasons of Kentucky football. Some of the anecdotes were derived from the book, "The Wildcats," which was written by former UK Sports Information Director Russell Rice.
1A AND 1B
During the course of his legendary career, Coach Paul "Bear" Bryant was known as an innovator of introducing changes in the game of football. One change Bryant introduced during his tenure at Kentucky was the use of a unique number system to identify twins Harry and Larry Jones, who both lettered three years (1950-52) with the Wildcats. Harry wore 1A and Larry wore 1B. Harry led the Wildcats in all-purpose yardage in 1951 with 964 while Larry led UK in kickoff returns (21.1 avg) in 1952.
BLUE AND WHITE
The University of Kentucky adopted blue and white as its official colors in 1892. Originally, UK students had decided on blue and yellow prior to the Kentucky- Centre football game on Dec. 19, 1891. The shade of blue came about when a student asked the question, "What color blue?" Richard C. Stoll, who lettered on the 1893-94 football teams, pulled off his necktie and held it up. The students adopted that particular shade of blue in Stoll's necktie. A year later, UK students dropped yellow for white.
Rich Brooks coached the Wildcats from 2003-09 and became the first coach in school history to go to four-straight bowl games. After enduring three years of rebuilding caused by an NCAA probation, Brooks guided UK to postseason play from 2006-09, winning a schoolrecord three straight following the 2006, '07 and '08 seasons.
PAUL "BEAR" BRYANT
Paul Bryant is still the most successful coach in UK football history. Bryant spent eight years at UK (1946-53) and produced a 60-23-5 (.710 pct.) record. The 60 victories are the most by any UK football coach. He led the Wildcats to four bowl games and their first Southeastern Conference title in 1950. He coached such UK stars as George Blanda, Jerry Claiborne, Bob Gain, Babe Parilli, Doug Moseley, Wilbur Jamerson and Steve Meilinger.
UK CHEERLEADERS: 18-TIME NATIONAL CHAMPIONS
The Kentucky cheerleading squad won an unprecedented 18th national cheerleading championship in 2010 at the competition sponsored by the Universal Cheerleaders Association. The cheerleaders have won the UCA national title in 1985, 1987, 1988, 1992, 1995-2002, 2004-06 and 2008-10 and have been the runners-up on five occasions. Jomo Thompson is coach of the cheerleaders and T. Lynn Williamson is the cheerleader advisor. A total of 40 students comprise the squad, 16 of whom represent the school at the championship.
After lettering three years (1946-49) as a player and serving two seasons (1952-53) as an assistant coach at Kentucky, Jerry Claiborne returned to his alma mater in 1982 as UK's 31st head football coach. Claiborne stepped down after 28 years as a collegiate head coach in 1989. He led the Wildcats to two bowls and four non-losing seasons. During his era, Kentucky placed more players (68) on the SEC Academic Honor Roll than any league school, including a then-record 17 in 1989. Claiborne also led UK to a national academic title by capturing the 1989 CFA Academic Achievement Award. His eight-year UK record was 41-46-3. Overall, Claiborne finished 21st among Division I coaches with 179 career victories and 179-122-8 in all games. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in Aug. 2000.
CFA ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
The University of Kentucky became the first Southeastern Conference institution to win the College Football Association Academic Achievement Award after claiming the prestigious honor in 1989. The Academic Achievement Award is given to the CFA institution with the highest graduation rate of its football program based on a five-year period. UK had graduated 90 percent (18 of 20) of its incoming freshman signee class of 1983, thus earning the honor in May, 1989. A year earlier (1988), UK finished second with a graduation rate of 90.5 percent. Kentucky earned honorable mention honors in 1988, '91, '93 and '94, for having graduated better than 70 percent of its incoming freshman class.
BLANTON COLLIER AND THE STAFF
Blanton Collier had the challenge of following Paul Bryant as head football coach at the University of Kentucky. But, Collier posted a fine 41-36-3 record in eight seasons at UK. Kentuckians best remember Collier for his record against arch-rival Tennessee which stood at 5 wins, 2 losses, and 1 tie. Standouts such as Howard Schnellenberger, Lou Michaels, Tom Hutchinson, Bobby Cravens, Calvin Bird and Irv Goode played under Collier. One fascinating item in Collier's tenure was the football coaching staff he assembled in 1959. The 1959 UK staff included Collier, Ed Rutledge, Howard Schnellenberger, Ermal Allen, Don Shula, John North, Bob Cummings and Bill Arnsparger.
The Fran Curci era (1973-81) was one of ups and downs at the University of Kentucky. Curci remained at UK for nine seasons, the longest tenure of any UK football coach, and posted a 47-51-2 record. The ups consisted of sharing the 1976 Southeastern Conference title with Georgia, a 21-0 blanking of North Carolina in the '76 Peach Bowl, and a 1977 squad which boasted a 10-1 record and No. 5 national ranking. The down was probation which forced the '77 squad to miss a certain bowl invitation.
The Trent DiGiuro Memorial Scholarship was established in the autumn of 1994 in honor of the Wildcat offensive guard who died in July of that year. The scholarship is awarded each year to a walk-on football player who has completed his eligibility, maintained a cumulative grade point average of at least 2.5, and has exemplified the dedication, determination, hard work and leadership typified by Trent DiGiuro. If there is no suitable walk-on candidate that year, the scholarship will go to a team manager or trainer who meets the above criteria. The scholarship was established by DiGiuro's family and friends. The 2010 winner of the scholarship is offensive lineman Dustin Luck.
The first forward pass attempted by a University of Kentucky football player was thrown on Oct. 13, 1906, by quarterback Earl Stone as the Wildcats faced Eminence Athletic Club. This was the first year the forward pass was legalized by national rules. Accounts from this early contest do not indicate if the first forward pass was completed.
The Commonwealth Stadium goalposts have been torn down twice since the stadium opened in 1973.
They were first toppled on Oct. 4, 1997, following Kentucky's 40-34 overtime win vs. Alabama. It was Kentucky's first victory against the Crimson Tide in 75 years, prompting the UK student body to storm the field. "If I weren't so old, I'd have torn them down myself," said then-UK Athletics Director C. M. Newton.
It happened again on Nov. 4, 2006, after the Wildcats' dramatic 24-20 triumph over Georgia. It was UK's first win over the Bulldogs in 10 years and the crowd brought down the east goalpost.
Citing safety concerns, UK has installed collapsible goalposts, which will prevent repeats of the popular -- but potentially dangerous -- celebration ritual.
The Governor's Cup was created in 1994 as the trophy for the winner of the Kentucky- Louisville game. Donated by Kroger at a cost of $23,000, the Governor's Cup stands 33 inches tall and weighs 110 pounds. The trophy's base and upright columns are handmilled black marble. The glass components are comprised of Optic grade crystal. All metal parts are 23-karat, gold-plated brass. The cup itself is solid pewter with a 23-karat gold-plated finish. The Governor's Cup was designed by Kendall Costner and sculpted by James Corcoran of Bruce Fox, Inc. The UKU of L series was renewed in 1994 with the Wildcats winning the game, 20-14.
As is the case of most institutions, Homecoming football games are special. Kentucky is no exception. Alumni and old friends converge on the UK campus each fall for Homecoming Day, highlighted by a Kentucky football game. The first Homecoming Day occurred on Nov. 25, 1915, as Kentucky defeated Tennessee, 6-0. Though records are sketchy, Kentucky has hosted a Homecoming game every year since 1946 and owns a 46-18 record in those 64 contests.
Simply known as "The Immortals," the 1898 University of Kentucky football squad still remains as the only undefeated, untied, and unscored on Wildcats club in school history. The Immortals outscored opponents 180-0 while posting a perfect 7-0-0 record. Roscoe Severs served as team captain under coach W.R. Bass. The closest of all seven games was a 6-0 victory over Centre College.
The legendary "Voice of the Wildcats" was none other than Cawood Ledford. For 39 years, Cawood called Wildcats football and basketball. His voice alone symbolized UK Athletics. Cawood called his last UK football game vs. Tennessee on Nov. 23, 1991, and retired from the microphone following the 1991-92 basketball season.
The Wildcat mascot originated during the 1976-77 academic year at Kentucky. Gary Tanner was the original Wildcat, dancing and entertaining thousands of UK fans at Commonwealth Stadium and Rupp Arena during athletic events.
Today, the Wildcat mascot also attends several academic functions as well and generally serves as a friendly ambassador for the University.
Scratch, another costumed mascot, was unveiled in August of 1996. During UK games, the Wildcat and Scratch entertain with enthusiastic dances and cheers.
"Blue" is UK's 'live' wildcat mascot. "Blue" has a permanent residence in the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife's Salato Wildlife Center three miles west of Frankfort on US 60 and is on display and free to view by the public. Through the years, UK has had other official live mascots with colorful names. Records indicate that the first wild animal, named "Tom," was given to the University in 1921. Other live mascots followed, including "TNT, " "Whiskers," "Hot Tamale" and "Colonel."
The University of Kentucky holds the Southeastern Conference record for fewest yards allowed rushing in a single game. Kentucky limited Kansas State to minus-93 yards on the ground as UK defeated Kansas State, 16-3, on Sept. 19, 1970, in Lexington. Kentucky defenders sacked KSU quarterbacks Lynn Dickey (2) and Max Arreguin (5) seven times while intercepting three of their passes. Ironically, KSU outgained UK in total offense 214-107 as Dickey and Arreguin combined for 307 yards in the air.
Kentucky is the 1950 national champion, according to Jeff Sagarin, who handles computer rankings for USA Today. Sagarin, who has generated computer ratings since the 1970s, has reconstructed earlier seasons and his computer rates the Wildcats as tops for the 1950 campaign.
At the time, the national champs were crowned after the regular season but before the bowl games. UK finished the regular season with a 10-1 record and No. 7 ranking before knocking off No. 1 Oklahoma, 13-7, in the Sugar Bowl. Four teams can lay claim to the 1950 title, according to the official NCAA record book. Six selectors went with Oklahoma (final record 10-1), six picked Tennessee (11-1), two chose Princeton (9-0), and one – the Sagarin ratings – named Kentucky (11-1).
THE FIRST NIGHT GAME
The University of Kentucky was one of the first institutions to play intercollegiate football at night. The first UK home night game was played on Oct. 5, 1929, at Stoll Field as Kentucky defeated Maryville, 40-0. Kentucky did not play more than one home night game per season until 1946.
The University of Kentucky began holding its October home football games during the evening hours in 1949. UK and Keeneland Race Course, located in Lexington, have enjoyed a close relationship through the years and assist in giving UK faithful an opportunity to enjoy two of the Commonwealth's best-loved events in October — football and horse racing. With the traditional post time at Keeneland for the thoroughbred races at 1:10 p.m., UK began moving its October home games to night during the 1949 season. The only occasion UK has not conducted its October home games in the evening is to accommodate live national or regional television.
Nat Northington of Louisville became the first black player to sign with the University of Kentucky and a Southeastern Conference institution. Northington signed a national letter-of-intent with UK in December of 1965. He later became the first African-American football player to play in an SEC vs. SEC game, appearing in the UK-Ole Miss game in Lexington on Sept. 30, 1967.
Two-time All-American Bob Gain is the only player in University of Kentucky football history to be awarded the Outland Trophy, signifying the best interior lineman in collegiate football. Gain was awarded the 1950 Outland Trophy after helping lead UK to its first Southeastern Conference title and a 10-1 regular- season record. Besides being the first UK player to claim the award, Gain was also the first SEC player to be given the award.
THE PRINCE OF WALES
The Kentucky Wildcats gave Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, his first taste of American football on Oct. 22, 1977. That's right, Prince Charles' first football game was the UK-Georgia matchup at Athens. Prince Charles was introduced to UK Coach Fran Curci and All-American Art Still at halftime. After looking at the 6-6 Still, Prince Charles said, "You're a tall one aren't you?" Still and Co. blanked the Bulldogs on this day, 33-0, on their way to a 10-1 record.
RED DOC, BLACK DOC
A pair of cousins named William Rodes played football for the University of Kentucky during the early 1900s. To distinguish one from the other, one was nicknamed "Red Doc" and the other "Black Doc." William "Red Doc" Rodes lettered three years (1909, 11-12) as a 140- pound halfback and defensive end. William "Black Doc" Rodes lettered two years (1915-16) as quarterback. Black Doc was considered by many to be one of the best open-field runners in that era. He also placekicked and personally delivered UK's 6-0 victory over Tennessee in 1915 with field goals of 45 and 43 yards.
Longtime UK sports information director Russell Rice is the walking, talking historian when it comes to Wildcats football. Rice retired from the UK Athletics Department in 1989 after serving 18 years as sports information director. He came to UK in 1967 as assistant SID under Ken Kuhn, then was named sports information director in 1969. Rice authored the book, "The Wildcats," which details Kentucky football and its history. At his retirement party, Rice was given a lifetime "Press Pass" to Commonwealth Stadium.
Since his retirement from UK, Rice has written a weekly historical column for The Cats' Pause magazine and he continues to be a rich historical resource for the UK media relations office.
STOLL FIELD/MCLEAN STADIUM
Stoll Field/McLean Stadium was the first home for Kentucky football. The stadium was located adjacent to Memorial Coliseum and served as UK's football home since 1916. The University Board of Trustees voted to name the playing field "Stoll Field" and the actual grandstand structures as "McLean Stadium," thus the often confusing double names. Stoll Field was named in honor of the late Judge Richard C. Stoll, a prominent alumnus, trustee and benefactor of UK. Stoll Field was dedicated on Oct. 14, 1916. McLean Stadium was dedicated on Nov. 1, 1924, in memory of Price Innes McLean, a regular center on the 1923 UK squad who died as a result of injuries sustained in the Kentucky- Cincinnati game on Nov. 6, 1923. The final seating capacity of Stoll Field/McLean Stadium was 37,000 during its last year of use, 1972.
THE THIN THIRTY
When Blanton Collier stepped down as head football coach at Kentucky following the 1961 season, UK promptly named former Wildcats player Charlie Bradshaw as its 28th coach. Bradshaw inherited a squad of 88 players left from Collier's 5-5-0 team in '61. Bradshaw promised his new UK squad hard work and talked of training to an absolute peak of condition. His conditioning tactics took their toll as more than 50 players left the squad, leaving 30 to open the season against Florida State and prompting the name "Thin Thirty." The Thin Thirty finished 3-5-2 with victories over Detroit (27-8), Vanderbilt (7-0) and arch-rival Tennessee (12-10). The ties were against Florida State (0-0) and Georgia (7-7).
The nickname "Wildcats" became synonymous with UK shortly after a 6-2 football victory at Illinois on Oct. 9, 1909. Commandant Philip Carbusier, then head of the military department, told a group of students in a chapel service following the game that the Kentucky football team had "fought like wildcats." The nickname grew in popularity and was adopted by the university.
Kentucky ended one of the longest winning streaks in college football history when the Wildcats faced Oklahoma in the 1951 Sugar Bowl.
Kentucky was coming off its first Southeastern Conference title and brought in a 10-1 record. Oklahoma entered as national champions and riding a 31-game winning streak. A pair of Wilbur Jamerson scores - a 22-yard pass from Babe Parilli and a one-yard run - was all UK needed in picking up a 13-7 upset of the Sooners.
At the time, the 31-game winning streak was the fifth-longest in NCAA history and today it still ranks as the ninth-longest in NCAA history.
THE YEAR (1977-78)
Perhaps the most successful year in UK Athletics occurred during the 1977-78 academic year at the University of Kentucky. The 1977 Wildcats football squad, under Fran Curci, raced to a 10-1 record and ended the year ranked No. 5 by The Sporting News. Highlights were victories over North Carolina (10-7), West Virginia (28-13), Penn State (24-20), LSU (33-13), Georgia (33-0), Florida (14-7) and Tennessee (21-17). On the basketball side, UK wrapped up its fifth NCAA title by defeating Duke, 94-88, at St. Louis. The UK basketballers ended the campaign with a 30-2 record under Joe B. Hall.
THE YEAR (1950-51)
An argument to the most successful year in UK Athletics is the 1950-51 academic year. UK football, under Paul Bryant, ended the 1950 regular season with a 10-1 record and ranked No. 7 nationally by both A.P. and U.P.I. The Wildcats then proceeded to snap national champion Oklahoma's 31-game winning streak with a 13-7 victory in the Sugar Bowl. Kentucky has been named national champion for the 1950 season by the Sagarin Ratings. On the basketball front, Adolph Rupp gave UK its third national title by defeating Kansas State, 68-58, at Minneapolis, Minn. The Wildcats ended the year 32-2.
KENTUCKY SUPERFAN JIM BROWN
If it has to do with Kentucky football, Jim Brown has seen it all.
When the 91-year-old Brown began attending UK football games, Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, bread cost a few cents a loaf, and Bear Bryant was just a cub.
With one exception we'll get to later, Brown was present for every UK home football game from 1938 until his streak ended during the 2009 season -- a total of 412 home games.
"I'm all for Kentucky football," Brown said. "I liked football from an early age, when I was a little kid in Western Kentucky. Football was the big thing in the 1920s and I followed UK in the sports pages."
Brown's streak began in 1938 when he enrolled as a UK freshman. A standout halfback in high school, he had hoped to play for the Wildcats, but was unable to try out for the team because he had to work his way through school. That didn't stop him from going to the games. In fact, it took a world war to separate Brown from Kentucky football.
"I was in a race with Uncle Sam to graduate before I got inducted into the service," Brown said. "I graduated in 1942 and got sent to Wright Field in Dayton. You couldn't get gasoline, and I didn't have a car anyway, so I caught the train from Dayton to Cincinnati to Lexington to see the games that season. I didn't miss any games in 1943 because, like a lot of schools, UK didn't field a team that year."
World War II finally got bigger than Kentucky football in 1944. Brown was a navigator/ bombardier on a B-25 in Asia, part of a squadron called the "Burma Bridge Busters," definitely too far for a weekend excursion to catch the Cats. But he was discharged just in time for the 1945 season, and he didn't miss a home game for 64 straight seasons.
(An interesting side note is that the "Burma Bridge Busters" were the subject of a 2003 documentary by the History Channel. Brown was one of the members of the squadron who was interviewed and featured in the documentary.)
A member of what has become known as "The Greatest Generation," Brown helped build America – literally. He was involved with the construction business, a lumber company, and in real estate.
Even his marriage had a tie to Kentucky football. He married Carolyn Rodes, daughter of William "Black Doc" Rodes, a UK football star in 1915-16.
The Browns didn't always live in Lexington. They lived in Carrollton from 1952-63, and in Winchester from 1965-78. All the while, he kept turning out to see his favorite team.
"I always worked on Saturday mornings (at the lumber company). I left a lot of people standing in the store, saying 'I have to go to Lexington,'" Brown recalled with a laugh. "I wasn't trying to set a record. It just happened."
Brown's favorite gridiron memories involve the 1949-50-51 teams that played in the Orange, Sugar and Cotton Bowls, along with the mid-1970s teams that won an SEC championship and a Peach Bowl.
"People who go back that far feel that our 1950 team probably was our best," said Brown, referring to the Wildcat squad that is the 1950 national champion, according to the Sagarin computer ratings. "(Quarterback) Babe Parilli was as good at deception as anyone I've ever seen. I was in a game in Atlanta against Georgia Tech, and a Tech fan was sitting beside me. He said, 'It looks like Parilli is shaking hands with everybody in the backfield before he hands the ball off.'
"That bunch in 1977 was probably the second-best team we've had," Brown continued. "They had a lot of terrific athletes, especially (future NFL stars) Art Still and Derrick Ramsey."
As much as he enjoys talking about the past, Brown is just as excited about the present and future. After 52 years of marriage, wife Carolyn passed away in 1999. He married again in 2002, and new wife Mary Anne Goodson Brown also is a UK grad.
Brown is happy with the progress made at the University.
"We're going in the right direction with the new AD (Mitch Barnhart) and President (Lee) Todd. The whole university is charting an exciting course."
Brown's streak finally came to an end when an illness forced him to miss the Alabama game in 2009. However, he continues to go Kentucky games. And, he's a model of faithfulness in more than football. He has a 44-year streak of perfect attendance at the Lexington Rotary Club. He's also a pillar of Crestwood Christian Church, where he is an elder emeritus. Asked about his consistency, Brown replied in what must be the understatement of the year.
"I've always had a tendency to be loyal," he said.