Kentucky Wildcats Football History

Kentucky's Music City Bowl Trophy

Kentucky's Music City Bowl Trophy. Thanks to ukathletics for the photo.


Kentucky Wildcats Football history begins on November 12th, 1881. On that date, Kentucky was the first of the future SEC schools to play a game that later developed into the modern game of American football that we all know and love. The first game, in 1881, involved a very different (awkward) scoring system, where Kentucky (then referred to as A & M College or Kentucky State College) defeated Kentucky University with a score of 7 to 1. At that time, the games had more of a rugby feel to them.

Just before the turn of the century, Kentucky college football disappeared for nearly a decade.

The Kentucky Wildcats football team got it's name "Wildcats" after a 6-2 road win over Illinois on October 9th, 1909. During a chapel service, after the game, the head of the military department, at the time, stated that the team "fought like Wildcats." Soon after, the majority of sports writers, fans, and eventually the University embraced the name.

Certainly the most famous coach in Kentucky football history was Paul "Bear" Bryant who coached the Wildcats from 1946 to 1953. The Bear is often referred to as the best all-time SEC football coach and even best in NCAA football history.

Wildcat's Football Fans

Wildcat's football fans. Thanks to ukathletics for the photo.


Kentucky made its first bowl appearance in 1947 at the Great Lakes Bowl. The coming years also brought a collection of SEC distinctions and many historical feats.

If you're looking for the latest Kentucky Wildcats Merchandise and Apparel, Tickets, and Baseball Caps please click on the links.

The School of Firsts

The University of Kentucky football team is responsible for a multitude of historic firsts and milestones. Not only does the school earn the honor of becoming the first SEC team to introduce football, but was also one of the first schools to run an intercollegiate football game at night - the earliest being played at home on October 5th, 1929. Kentucky also appeared in the first and only Great Lakes Bowl in 1947.

Kentucky football produced the first player from the SEC to claim the Outland Trophy (tackle, Bob Gain in 1950). The school also broke color barriers, as Kentucky signed the first African-American player (Nat Northington) to play on an SEC football team. In 1967, Northington became the first African-American to play in league competition (vs. Ole Miss).

The University of Kentucky was also the first school in the SEC to win the College Football Association Academic Achievement Award, which is given to the school with the highest graduation rate.

Kentucky's Male Cheerleader Lead Cheers Before Football Game

Kentucky's male cheerleader lead cheers before football game. Thanks to ukathletics for the photo.

Stadium History

The first home of Kentucky football was Stoll Field/McLean Stadium which hosted home games beginning in 1916. The multi-purpose stadium showcased concrete stands.

The current Commonwealth Stadium replaced Stoll Field at the end of the 1972 season. At first, the original capacity of Commonwealth Stadium was 57,800, but has since expanded to accommodate a crowd of 67,530. In 1999, both ends of the stadium were enclosed and 40 suites were built - 10 placed at each corner of the stadium.

Some of the records set at Kentucky's Commonwealth Stadium include:

  • Moe Williams set the record for most rushing yards in a game with 272 on November 11th, 1995.
  • Craig Yeast set the record for most receptions in a game (16) and most receiving yards in a game (269) on November 14th, 1998.
  • Buck Belue to Amp Arnold was the longest pass play of 91 yards on October 25th, 1980.
  • Hap Hines kicked the longest field goal of 54 yards on October 26th, 1996.
  • Kentucky has the all-time NCAA football record for the most overtimes in a game (7) in a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks on November 1, 2003.

Notable Coaches and Players



Kentucky football often enjoyed the sweet taste of victory under the guidance of Paul "Bear" Bryant, who is most often associated with his Alabama football coaching fame.

The best season in the history of Kentucky Wildcats Football was 1951. Led by Bear Bryant, the Wildcats went 10-1 in the regular season; won the SEC championship and beat Oklahoma by a score of 13-7 in the Sugar Bowl.

Surely, that victory in the 1951 Sugar Bowl was the biggest win ever for Kentucky because Oklahoma was the defending National Champion, at the time, and riding a 31 game winning streak. That Oklahoma winning streak is still the 7th longest in NCAA football history.

When Bryant left Kentucky, after the 1953 season, (to go to Texas A&M and later Alabama), he had compiled an impressive 60-23-5 record in eight years. Bryant's 60 victories remain the most of any UK football coach - in history.

Bryant also helped George Blanda, Jerry Claiborne (former Wildcats coach); and All-American Babe Parilli further their careers.

Coach Hal Mumme added zip to the Kentucky football program when he arrived in 1997. Mumme was responsible for initiating the "Air Raid" offense, which temporarily turned the Wildcats into one of the top college football teams in passing yardage and total offense. The 1997 team broke or tied 51 school and 15 SEC records.

When it comes to the players, Kentucky has produced the likes of quarterback, Tim Couch, who was a first-team All-American, SEC Player of the Year, and finalist for the Heisman Trophy. During his college career, he broke University of Kentucky, SEC, and NCAA records. Couch would eventually receive the honor of becoming the overall first pick in the 1999 NFL draft.

Another notable Wildcat is Craig Yeast, the leading receiver in SEC football history (208 career receptions).

A handful of SEC Player of the Year recipients has also come from Kentucky, such as Babe Parilli (quarterback; 1950); Lou Michaels (tackle; 1957) and Sonny Collins (running back; 1973). SEC Coach of the Year winners include Paul "Bear" Bryant (1950); Blanton Collier (1954); Fran Curci (1977); and Jerry Claiborne (1983).

Kentucky Football Fans Believe

Kentucky football fans believe. Thanks to ukathletics for the photo.

Did you know?

Many consider the Kentucky squad of 1898 as one of the greatest teams in Kentucky Wildcats football history. Simply known as "The Immortals" to locals, the team is the only group that has remained undefeated, untied, and unscored throughout the school's history. Coached by W.R. Bass, the lightweight team (average weight of 147 pounds) ended their season with a perfect 7-0-0 record.

Other Kentucky Wildcats Football History Pages:

Kentucky Wildcats Football History!!
Kentucky Wildcats Football History!!
Kentucky Wildcats Football History!!




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Thank you... Not rated yet
Excellent site - I'm a Kentucky fan and it's often really difficult to find quality information about the football team, especially in terms of the history …

do you think that Derrick Locke is the best running back in kentucky history?? Not rated yet
i believe that Derrick is the best or damn close

Question Not rated yet
who was the artist the drew the original wildcat?

UK 1950 Not rated yet
Don't forget 1950 National champions (Sagarin Rankings)

Click here to write your own.

By Mo Johnson, Copyright © 2006-2016 SECSportsFan.com

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