SportsLocal Sports


Wilbur Wildcat relives 1997 National Championship moment

"Tucson was the best 5 and a half years of my life. It was a blast."
Posted: 9:04 PM, Mar 31, 2022
Updated: 2022-04-01 08:24:50-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (TUCSON) — "That team really was the Cardiac Cats," recalled Ben Bartley.

He knows firsthand about that memorable 1997 run by the Arizona Wildcats to a National Championship.

He was Wilbur Wildcat that season.

Like many fans, he was surprised that this Arizona team made it to the national title game.

On the 25th anniversary of that game, Bartley's biggest memory had to do with the atmosphere inside the RCA Dome in Indianapolis.

"It was hot in the costume and I was excited," said Bartley in an interview with KGUN 9. "I was pretty fired up, definitely trying to get the crowd riled up."

Wilbur Wildcat at 1997 National Championship game

When Arizona and Kentucky went to overtime, he had one job to do.

"They hit nothing but free throws," remembered Bartley. "I just didn't want to move. I thought if I stayed perfectly still that the free throws would keep going in, and they did."

Arizona won, and the celebration was on.

Bartley repeated what he did in the Elite Eight, by climbing up on top of the rim.

"I always spelled out Arizona: A-R-I-Z-O-N-A," Bartley demonstrated. "I went to stand on top of the rim and spell out Arizona. I did it and the crowd was chanting it. It was super fun. Everybody had a great time accept for one person, that was my mom. She was not impressed. Then we won the national championship and I did it again Mom."

Wilbur Wildcat in 1997

Ironically, Bartley now lives in Kentucky and reminds those Wildcat fans that his Arizona Wildcats won that National Championship.

It's especially sweet on this 25th anniversary, to relive his time as Wilbur and his time on the University of Arizona campus.

"Graduated in '98," Bartley said. "Tucson was the best 5 and a half years of my life. It was a blast."

Bartley now works for a computer software company and lives in Louisville, Kentucky.