UKPD officer returns to Rupp Arena to cheer on the Cats again


Michael Culver cheered on the UK Cheer white squad from 2009 to 2013. He was one of several alumni who returned to cheer on the Cats at the UK versus Alabama basketball game. 

Bailey Vandiver

Being on the floor of Rupp Arena “never gets old.”

UK Police Officer Michael Culver returned to a familiar spot for the UK versus Alabama basketball game: the sideline.

As a student, Culver cheered on the UK Cheer white squad from 2009 to 2013. He was one of several alumni who returned to cheer on the Cats while this year’s blue, or varsity, squad was in South Korea for the Winter Olympics.

“It was like somebody had hit the rewind button,” Culver said.

He said it was one of the most fun games he has ever gotten to cheer because it brought back so many good memories.

“It was a blast,” he said. “Fun as it always was.”

About a semester before Culver graduated from UK, a friend who worked for Kentucky State Police mentioned the idea of being a police officer to him.

“I kind of just stuck with it,” Culver said.

In February of 2015, UKPD hired him as part of security, and he worked at Eastern State Hospital for several months. That August, he was hired as a police officer.

On the weekend of Feb. 17, 2018, the blue squad was in South Korea, and the white squad was in Atlanta for its national competition.

The cheerleaders are such a big part of marketing that everyone knew someone had to be there to cheer at the UK versus Alabama game, Culver said. So head coach Jomo Thompson and team adviser T. Lynn Williamson reached out to several alumni.

“The people that can get in town or take off were more than happy to participate,” Culver said.

Culver cheered with the other alumni, “a handful” of which were his teammates when he was on the squad.

“That made it super easy because we kind of know how each other operate,” he said.

Williamson, who has been the cheer adviser since 1977, told Culver that this was maybe the second or third time that alumni had returned to cheer at UK.

Culver said they kept it basic so they were not stressed out about some of the “more technical stuff that some of those younger kids do these days.” He said this allowed them to enjoy the game more.

“We warmed up a little bit longer than what we normally did, back when we were in college,” Culver said. “But you know, we all meshed really, really well.”

Culver said he surprised himself with how well he was able to fall back into cheering. He said he cheered with a “really good” partner.

UK Cheer won championships in 2009, 2010 and 2012, while Culver was on the team. Culver said he has always been proud to be part of such a historic cheer program.

“Just knowing that they’re at the Winter Olympics representing the USA, I know that there’s not a better cheerleading team that can do that,” he said.

Culver said the cheer team, including alumni going back to the ‘80s and ‘90s, are a “tight-knit family.”

He said UK Cheer at the Winter Olympics is “just another footnote” for a great program.