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Bill Keightley dies at age 81

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Tragic news out of Cincinnati tonight, where longtime Kentucky basketball equipment manager Bill Keightley has died at the age of 81.

According to a statement from University of Kentucky athletics, Keightley died from internal bleeding caused by a previously undiagnosed tumor on his spine.

According to the statement, doctors believe the internal bleeding began Monday afternoon while Keightley was attending the Cincinnati Reds season opener. He was taken to University Hospital, where doctors were not able to stop the bleeding, according Dr. Pete Muskat, Clinical Director of Trauma Services. He died at 7:45 p.m., with his family and members of the UK coaching staff with him at the hospital, the statement said.

Keightley was part of a group that traveled to Cincinnati to watch the Reds' game against Arizona, friend Van Florence said. Keightley fell as he got off a bus at the stadium, Florence said.

Initially, the group did not believe Keightley had been seriously injured, Florence said.

A native of Lawrenceburg, Keightley had worked in UK basketball's equipment room since 1962. He and the late radio play-by-play announcer Cawood Ledford are the only non-player or non-coaches to have their jerseys ceremonially retired in Rupp Arena.

True story, my dad actually wrote a book about Kentucky basketball in 1984, and he's always said that the best part of the whole experience was meeting Bill Keightley. As convenient as it may be for all of us involved in this rivalry to label one side good and the other side evil, the truth is that both programs have many dedicated fans who are also wonderful human beings, and by all accounts, Mr. Wildcat was one of them.

My thoughts are with both Mr. Keightley's family and all those deeply affected by his passing.