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UK Athletics - Football: Home

Basic overview of the history of varsity football at the University of Kentucky


The Immortals


The University of Kentucky Football Program has a long and storied past.  The "Wildcat" nicknamed originated with the football team in honor of their fighting spirit.  Football pre-dated basketball on UK's campus by over 20 years.  One of the greatest college football coaches of all time, Paul "Bear" Bryant, led the Wildcats to four bowl games and their first Southeastern Conference title in 1950.

University of Kentucky Football firsts:

  • UK was the first Southeastern Conference school to introduce football (1881)

  • Kentucky tackle Bob Gain was first SEC player to receive Outland Trophy (1950)

  • Wildcat Nat Northington was the first African-American player to sign with an SEC institution and the first to play in a league contest (vs. Ole Miss in 1967)

  • Kentucky’s Wilbur Hackett became the first African-American captain for any SEC team (1969)

  • UK became the first SEC school to win the coveted College Football Association Academic Achievement Award for highest graduation rate (1989)

Reference Assistant