Monday, March 31, 2008

RIP: Bill Keightley, Mr. Wildcat

It is with great sadness and sorry that I make this post right now. I was just informed over the phone that Mr. Wildcat, Bill Keightley, fell out of a bus and tragically died today at the age of 81.

WKYT has confirmed the comments that my friend has made. The obituary is below:
27 NEWSFIRST & WYMT Mountain News have learned Keightley was going to the Cincinnati Reds opening game Monday afternoon, when he apparently fell in some sort of accident while getting off a bus at Great American Ballpark.

He was rushed to the University of Cincinnati Hospital where he died during surgery late Monday evening.

Keightley started working at UK in 1962, as the equipment manager.

In 2002, the university presented the first Bill Keightley award. It's given to the "individual who understands and exemplifies the pride, respect, and the positive attributes associated with being a part of the Kentucky basketball program."

Keightley had been on the UK bench for nearly 2,600 games, meaning he's played a role in about 57 percent of their games.

This past season was his 47th with UK.

The Lawrenceburg, Ky. native has his jersey retired in the rafters at Rupp Arena.
Mr. Keightley will be missed by all of the Big Blue Faithful. Our condolences to his family as well as the University of Kentucky Wildcats and all the coaches and players that have gotten to know him over the years.

Keightley was a surprise guest this past week at the Charlotte Bobcats Arena.
Longtime UK equipment manager and "Mr. Wildcat" Bill Keightley was a surprise guest among the U of L faithful in Charlotte Bobcats Arena on Thursday night.

"He's never going to like Louisville; it's just not his makeup," Pitino said. "But he understands what friendships and people are all about.

"And I really appreciate that, because guys like Bill Keightley, they're your friends for life. And a lot of guys I thought were my friends back in those (UK) days haven't been my friends."
Here's a link to a post I had back in 2005.

Here's the complete obituary provided by the Athletic Department.

Statement by Lee Todd:
President Todd on the passing of Bill Keightley
"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."
A Sea of Blue has a great round-up of articles and tributes.

Jerry Tipton writes on today's press conference in which Billy Gillispie and players reflect on Bill Keightley's passing. There is this tidbit:

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

Mark Story has a great article.

Former Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith issued a statement:
“Words can not describe what Mr. Keightley has meant to me and many others that have been involved with Kentucky Basketball. Mr. Keightley has been a confidant to so many coaches that have had the good fortune to sit along side him. That is what it has been, us sitting next to him, not him sitting next to us. No one will ever love Kentucky Basketball more than Mr. Keightley. A few years back, he began writing his book of stories about UK Basketball. For those who did not know him personally, hopefully his book of memoirs will allow them the opportunity to learn about his legacy, one that can never be replaced. In my years with him, he taught me so much about life. We have certainly lost a great treasure in his passing. He has always had a way of being able to pick you up when things were down. I know his spirit will continue to be with me and all Wildcat fans, players, managers and coaches. He is certainly loved by many, and will be missed by all.”

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