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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

The return of Wilbur

Photo+Courtesy+of+Kirk+Sibley
Photo Courtesy of Kirk Sibley

For Kirk Sibley, Homecoming isn’t just a chance for him to come back and watch his alma mater play football — it’s a chance for him to relive the greatest years of his life.

Starting in 1996, Sibley was Wilbur T. Wildcat. Ever since his graduation in 1999, he has returned to reclaim his role as the beloved mascot at every Homecoming for a record 15 years.

“For me that’s just what I look forward to every year,” he said. “That day where I can just get out there and put the costume on and get the crowd going again.”

Sibley grew up in Tucson. He said he wanted to attend the UA for his whole life, but financial restraints kept him away from the UA after he finished high school. Eventually he decided he couldn’t bear the wait any longer and became a Wildcat, both metaphorically and physically.

And the bond that was created by fulfilling his dream has never disappeared.

“Just because I graduated (my attachment) wasn’t going away,” Sibley said. “I wasn’t feeling like I wanted to sever ties. It still was and is a really special place for me.”

In his post-Wilbur years, Sibley has stayed connected by volunteering as the videographer for the Pride of Arizona marching band. He records its rehearsals and shows, and even went to band camp the last two years.

To him, the marching band has always been special, especially since he was a band member his freshman year.

He said that he enjoys being referred to as “The UA’s Band Mascot” and even still cries when he hears it play “Bear Down.”

The extensive time and energy he contributes is purely on a volunteer basis. Sibley works full time for Intel Corp. in Chandler, yet the hour-long drive to Tucson has never deterred him from donating his time to the school he loves.

Last year, Sibley made a 45-minute DVD for the band using more than 130 hours of footage that he recorded. Sibley also contributed most of the footage used in the Pride of Arizona’s introductory video that is shown before every football game.

“I probably got a little misty-eyed when I saw that footage up there,” he said about seeing the video on Arizona Stadium’s new video board. “And not just because it was my footage, but just because I was able to still be able to do something that contributes to the school and the program.”

The UA left a lasting impact on Sibley, but it’s not a one-way street. Since he put on the furry head of Wilbur, things have never been the same.

Sibley began the tradition of the shirt-lift in 1998, a skit that is still done today.

He also brought back the tradition in which graduating Wilburs sign the wall inside the changing room, leaving a lasting impression of the work each student contributed.

Even though this is his 15th Homecoming game, Sibley sees no end in sight for his days as Wilbur. He only wants to stop if he is physically unable to or it is no longer fun, and neither of those scenarios has happened yet, he said.

For Sibley, he just loves being on the field with the band and entertaining the crowd for one game each year.

“It’s just a complete thrill,” Sibley said.

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