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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Former Wilbur, Kirk Sibley, relishes opportunity to don the Wildcat every year for Homecoming

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(Courtesy Kirk Sibley) Kirk Sibley, former UA mascot, poses in the Wilbur costume on the steps of Old Main. Sibley is coming back to don the Wilbur costume for the 20th consecutive year.

The UA is known for its campus culture, school spirit, excellent academic programs and a championship-winning athletics program. Part of the aforementioned school spirit is the “Ari-zona” chant as it roars through stadiums each season, led by mascot Wilbur Wildcat.

Kirk Sibley, 1999 alumnus, was the body inside the mascot suit in his time at the UA. Initially aspiring to play in the band, Sibley did not expect to become such a prominent face at sporting events. Being the only one in his group of friends to actually try out for the position, Sibley took advantage of the opportunity at hand when he was called back for the second and third rounds of interviews.

“I wasn’t expecting it, so it was almost overwhelming,” Sibley said. “It was a totally crazy opportunity I never would have imagined doing.”

He explained the job was a lot harder than it looked because he had to get used to wearing a suit, make Wilbur his own character and figure out how to communicate with the crowd through his mannerisms and gestures.

In his time as Wilbur, Sibley led the crowd for the ever-famous 1996–1997 men’s basketball national title team coached by Lute Olson. He also encouraged fans at football games in 1998 when Arizona went 12–1 and almost had a shot at going to the program’s first Rose Bowl game, until it lost to UCLA.

“Football was stressful because this was the first Rose Bowl game we were competing for,” Sibley said. “Basketball was more stressful the year following the championship title because we were returning champs.”

Although he did not know it at the time, Sibley would go down in history as one of Arizona’s great mascots. He brought an energy and atmosphere to games that is hard to replicate; he is responsible for many traditions—like his shirt lift routine.

“Every game I do, that’s one less game I have in the future,” Sibley said. “Even if the team has a bad game, I have to have a great game. If I have a great game, the team will have a better game.”

Returning home to relive his days as Wilbur, Sibley comes back to his old stomping grounds each Homecoming weekend to put on the suit another time. He is honored the school continues to value the efforts he put in as Wilbur, and was excited to talk about his memories and time as the mascot.

“Home team experience is the advantage, so if you can’t get the crowd going, you don’t have that experience,” Sibley said.

He illustrated how coming back to the campus is like coming home. Sibley remains in touch with football players and other staff and faculty, and is grateful for the people he met along the way in his second life as Wilbur Wildcat.

“I consider it a privilege to come back and be able to represent my school each year at Homecoming—doing a job that I love,” Sibley said.

He now resides in Chandler, Arizona, as an engineer for Intel. Although he enjoys what he does, a piece of him can always be found at the UA.

“I do my job and I do it great. But at the gym and on the weekends, everything that happened that year has shaped me into who I am,” Sibley said. “Once [Homecoming is] about a month away, I can’t think about anything else.”


Follow Mackenzie Swaney on Twitter.


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