UK center preserves Keightley interviews

By Pat Deringer

Those who did not know Bill Keightley on a personal level can listen to conversations with him recorded by the Louie B. Nunn Center, which has been preserving oral history since 1973.

Known as “Mr. Wildcat” to most, Keightley’s oral history reveals 40 hours of in-depth conversations about topics from family life to winning national championships. Since his death last week, the 25 interview sessions have been taken off restriction and made available to the public.

Keightley’s interviews speak loudly to UK basketball fans who mourn his loss and remember his passion for UK’s elite tradition, said Nunn Center Director Doug Boyd.

“People always talk about how genuine Keightley was, but through these interviews listeners are able to hear and feel just how genuine he truly was,” Boyd said.

Keightley’s 48 seasons on the UK sidelines as equipment manager earned him a 1,113-351 win-loss record and induction to the UK Athletics Hall of Fame in 2005.

The interviews took place between 2005 and 2007, as Keightley touched on growing up in Lawrenceburg, Ky., his life as a postal carrier and marine, UK athletics, and his relationships with six UK coaches, including Billy Gillispie.

“He had an astonishing memory for remembering individual games,” Boyd said. “He was able to give insight to the unique interactions he shared with the coaches and the players.”

Boyd said Keightley’s interview sessions will help strengthen the center’s UK athletics collection, especially in basketball. Sports collections with oral histories of Kentucky sports, black athletes and Kentucky professional athletes are available at the Nunn Center.

“Oral history is all about timing,” Boyd said. “You have to catch the story before it’s too late, and fortunately we were lucky enough to capture Keightley’s knowledge.”

The Nunn Center usually conducts several hundred interviews each year and serves as a repository for all people interested in firsthand accounts. There are no specific criteria or eligibility issues that qualify a topic for a collection, Boyd said. Instead, the situation largely rests in matching the right person with an interviewer, he said.

Numerous topics deal with UK, but the center also provides collections that document projects outside of the university, including the horse industry and family farms.

To access some clips of Keightley’s interviews or search the oral history database, visit the center’s Web site (