Evolution of the Kentucky Wildcats


The University of Kentucky was established in 1865, and its basketball program got its start a few decades later in 1902. Since then, the team’s done nothing more than becoming the winningest team in the NCAA, reach the Final Four 17 times, and win eight national titles (that’s the second-most of all time). Let’s take a look back at UK’s long and storied history, and how its logo has changed over the years.


Kentucky History

The UK basketball team got started in 1902, and there isn’t a lot known about those early years – in fact, the coach(s) for four out of its first five years is “unknown.”  However, since then, the team’s had several head coaches, but the longest-tenured one is a fellow by the name of Adolph Rupp, who manned the helm for over four decades. During his time with the team, he led them to four national titles, 27 SEC titles, and won 876 games. Due to his long, successful years as Kentucky’s head coach, the team’s home was named in his honor when it opened in 1976.  

The Wildcats have since won four more national titles: one under coach Joe B. Hall in 1978, one under coach Rick Pitino in 1996, one under coach Tubby Smith in 1998. Most recently, they snagged another win over Kansas under current head coach John Calipari in 2012.


Wildcat Logo Evolution

The University of Kentucky’s athletic teams became known as the Wildcats after a football victory over Illinois in 1909. The head of the military department at the school, which was then known as State University, told a group of students the team had fought “like wildcats.” Over time, the nickname stuck and was officially adopted by the university. A few renditions of its logo have included depictions of its mascot, but not all.


The Wildcats logo from this era features a detailed, snarling head of what looks like a bobcat that is superimposed over the outline of Kentucky.


This version includes the university’s letters, “UK,” with a full-bodied wildcat standing behind and over the top. Three of his four feet show claws extended, and he looks ferocious, with his mouth open and teeth exposed.


In 2005, the wildcat disappears from the logo, and only the “UK” remains. It’s in a medium blue, with a white outline around each letter, and the whole logo is complete with a thinner blue line.


The current UK logo is much the same, except the blue is darker and the overlap of the “K” over the “U” isn’t quite as complex and has fewer lines.

Big Blue Nation

Are you ready to root on your Wildcats? Heading to Rupp Arena to see them take on their next SEC opponent? Make sure you head to Fanatics to grab some new UK gear to wear on game day.




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