UK Equipment Manager Dies After Fall

Kentucky basketball manager Bill Keightley, who was with the Wildcats for 48 seasons, died Monday in Cincinnati. He was 81.

Keightley died of internal bleeding caused by a previously undiagnosed tumor on his spine, the university said in a statement. Kentucky spokesman Scott Stricklin said Keightley was on a trip to see the Reds' season-opener and suffered a fall.

He was taken to University Hospital, where he died of internal bleeding Monday evening. Stricklin said doctors believe the fall was probably due to bleeding.

Keightley, known to many as Mr. Wildcat, 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."

The Lawrenceburg, Ky. native had his jersey retired in the rafters at Rupp Arena in 1997. He's one of only two people who did not play or coach. The other was broadcaster Cawood Ledford. Keightley was also inducted into the charter class of the university's Hall of Fame in 2005.

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. His tenure reached back to the Adolph Rupp era and continued through Joe B. Hall, Eddie Sutton, Rick Pitino, Tubby Smith and current Kentucky coach Billy Gillispie.

Coach Gillispie released this statement Monday:
"He influenced each of us on a daily basis and he was a great example of someone who loved his university more than anything obviously, he's in a better place, but the void he leaves is going to be a difficult situation."

Keightley is survived by his wife, Hazel, and daughter, Karen.
Kentucky fans will get a chance to pay their respects to Keightley during a public memorial service on Thursday.

A public viewing will be held on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Rupp Arena lobby. A public memorial service will be held inside the arena from 6-8 p.m. on Thursday evening.

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  • by Bill Location: Atlanta, GA. on Mar 21, 2009 at 10:42 AM
    It was always assuring no matter how the Wildcats were doing to see Mr. Bill on the sidelines. His consistency leaves a model for others to follow. He will be greatly missed.
  • by Michael Location: Lex on Apr 2, 2008 at 10:18 AM
    This IS NOT meant to be disrepectful at all but it really shows what a wonderful person he was even if he did the laundry and was in charge of keeping basketballs bouncing for a team. It just goes to show you that it doesn't matter what your job is, it's how you treat people that really matters. I've heard of other equipment managers that were call "jock washers" because they treated people with disdain and disrepect. Obviously, Mr. Keightley was one of a kind.
  • by doug collins Location: floyd on Apr 1, 2008 at 04:55 PM
    any one that knew uk basketball knew bill.he will be greatly missed by all uk well as the univeristy.its gonna be so different looking at the bench and no mr wildcat prayers and thoughts are with the family.he will be watching from a better seat now than any one of us or he could ever have
  • by Carolyn Location: Beattyville on Apr 1, 2008 at 03:02 PM
    Will not feel right to go to a game without Mr. Wildcat on the bench.
  • by chris fields Location: lexington on Apr 1, 2008 at 01:02 PM
    The Kentucky Bench Tragedy besets us and we experience grief, sadness,loss and heart ache. We go through the stages set upon us as human beings, so that we may someday overcome this tragic event. But sometimes there is a constant reminder that will never let us be free of the heart that touched us so deeply. Much like the New York sky line will never let us forget 9/11, so will, now, the Kentucky Basketball Bench. When the camera pans in on Coach crouching and calling a play, the background has now forever changed. The unforgettable Bill Keightly will no longer be in his seat at the end of the bench, next to the scorers table, anchoring the program he loved with all his heart. God bless The Big Blue Nation but mostly God bless his wife, daughter and other Family members.
  • by Wanda Location: Lexington on Apr 1, 2008 at 12:56 PM
    I pray God will surround the family and friends with His Presence during this time.
  • by Jennie Location: lLawrenceburg,Ky on Apr 1, 2008 at 12:55 PM
    My thoughts and prayers are with you at this difficult time. May God give you strengh.He will be missed on the bench with his beloved Wildcats. All of the players have lost a Great Support person.
  • by Julie Location: Lexington on Apr 1, 2008 at 11:30 AM
    His funeral should take place in Rupp Arena....with a Kentucky Blue and White casket.....he was the most loyal of all of us....he should be treated as such....and should go out as Mr. Wildcat. We will miss you Bill!!!
  • by nikki Location: somerset on Apr 1, 2008 at 10:50 AM
    sorry bout mr. bill he has help a lot of the kentucky basketball players for example joe crawford kepp up the good work and sorry bout mr.bill
  • by DaJuane Location: Richmond on Apr 1, 2008 at 10:33 AM
    I have been a lifelong UK fan and I am very saddened by the untimely loss of Mr. Keightley. I was fortunate enough to have met and conversed with him on several occasions. The first time I met him was at a welcoming reception for Coach Smith at the Singletary Center in 1998. The other occasions were when I worked at the Papa Johns next to Memorial Coliseum and Mr. Keightly would regularly come in and order pizzas for Coach Smith's summer camps. He was a great man who was genuinely friendly and he will always be missed. My heart goes out to his family and multitudes of friends across the Commonwealth and beyond. Rest in peace, "Mr. Wildcat!!!"


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