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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Alum returns as lucky Homecoming mascot

    Kirk Sibley was a student and Wilbur the Wildcat from 1996-2003. He will be Wilbur on Saturday at the Homecoming football game against No. 6 USC, marking his 14th straight year of wearing the mascot suit at Homecoming.
    Kirk Sibley was a student and Wilbur the Wildcat from 1996-2003. He will be Wilbur on Saturday at the Homecoming football game against No. 6 USC, marking his 14th straight year of wearing the mascot suit at Homecoming.

    Some teams have lucky sports rituals, certain hairstyles or pre-game routines that inspire victories during crucial points in the season. For the Wildcats, the Homecoming good luck charm returns in the form of alumni Kirk Sibley.

    In case the name doesn’t sound familiar, let’s get you better acquainted.

    Sibley was Wilbur the Wildcat as a student during the golden age of Arizona Athletics in the late 1990s, which included the NCAA championship basketball team in 1997 and the football team’s last bowl appearance in the 1998 Holiday Bowl win against Nebraska.

    “”I’ve had the opportunity to be in that place that no one else has been in before,”” Sibley said. “”For me now, it’s the biggest deal. You get to be part of something that’s so unique.””

    Equipped with his lucky jersey and red Converse shoes, Sibley, now in his 30s, will return to Arizona Stadium on Saturday as Wilbur the Wildcat once again. He plans on pulling out all the stops to get the crowd fired up about the game against No. 6 Southern California.

    “”This year I have something new,”” Sibley hinted. “”I can’t share it just yet.””

    Like other Wildcat football fans, Sibley knows the potential impact of this game: In addition to the top spot in the Pacific 10 conference, a win Saturday would mean eligibility for a bowl game, and playing in a postseason game is a feat that has evaded the Wildcats for 10 years.

    “”This is the most important game that the Wildcats will play in a decade. If there is any team in the Pac-10 that can win (against USC), it’s Arizona,”” Sibley said. “”I think we’ve got the best chance to beat USC that we’ve had in years.””

    Along with his Homecoming magic streak, Sibley has an impressive resume as Wilbur. Since Wilbur’s first appearance in 1959, Sibley strutted his stuff as Wilbur in 13 of the 49 Homecoming games. This will be his 14th straight Homecoming. Keeping with the traditional Sibley appearance, he hopes he can rally the Wildcats again to another win.

    “”It’s the crowd, the opportunity to have an impact on the game and the thrill of running out on the field,”” Sibley said of what keeps him coming back every year. “”You can come back and be part of something that’s not only special to you, but special to the school.””

    Sibley said he has faith in the coaches, players and especially in the fans to have an impact against the Trojans. He trains all year by going to the gym five or six times per week, meeting with a personal trainer three times a week and doing 150 to 200 push-ups a day.

    He hopes his energy will inspire the crowd and the players.

    “”To the players, this is the weekend that you’ve waited for,”” Sibley said. “”This is the one you will always remember. Believe you can. To the crowd, be there to support the team. Make home-field advantage a real advantage.””

    In the tradition of keeping Wilbur and Wilma a central part of Wildcat football games, Sibley said he looks to pass on something he keeps dear to his heart.

    “”I want to pass this bowl game torch that I’ve been carrying around for 10 years,”” he said. “”If we win this weekend, it puts us in good position.””

    He also emphasizes his thanks to the students who take on the role of Wilbur and Wilma weekly.

    “”The real credit goes to the students that currently have that position,”” Sibley said. “”They keep that tradition going.””

    Substituting in his annual appearance, Sibley, who is now a systems engineer at Intel Corporation in Chandler, fondly remembers being both a symbolic and central part of Arizona Athletics.

    “”It’s this deep passion. It has been there for as long as I can remember and will be with me this weekend when I take the field.””

    With both national and Pac-10 implications on the line, Sibley is more excited than ever to do his part to help the Wildcats get back to a bowl game.

    Since he first became Wilbur in 1996, Sibley has helped the team pull some serious Homecoming weekend upsets, including then-No. 7 and undefeated UCLA in 2005 and then-No. 8 California the following year.

    “”When I come back, we tend to have winning games,”” Sibley said. “”I don’t know if you can consider me lucky, but if they win this weekend, I don’t know if you can write it off as mere coincidence anymore.””

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