They Fought Like Wildcats Centennial (1914-2014): From the “Varsity” to the “Wildcats”

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Excerpt from L.A. Times, Nov. 8, 1914, authored by Bill Henry:
“Arizona’s cactus-fed athletes, despite heroic efforts on the part of their two halfbacks, (Asa) Porter and (Franklin) Luis, went down to defeat before the Occidental Tigers yesterday afternoon, the tally with all precincts heard from being 14 to 0 in favor of the Tigers.
Confident of rolling up a big score, the Tigers took the field with grins on their faces, but before the game was 10 seconds old they knew they had a battle on their hands.
The Arizona men showed the fight of wild cats and displayed before the public gaze a couple of little shrimps in the backfield who defied all attempts of the Tigers to stop them.”

This site will conduct a countdown in a 100-day period, leading up to Arizona’s 2014 football season-opener with UNLV on Aug. 29 at Arizona Stadium. The 100 Days ‘Til Kickoff countdown will include information daily about the historic 1914 Arizona team that helped create the school’s nickname of “Wildcats” because of how they played that fateful day against Occidental.

Franklin Luis, Orville McPherson, Asa Porter & Meyer. Arizona Life (2014)

Franklin Luis, Orville McPherson, Asa Porter & Richard Meyer. Arizona Life (1914)

They were called the “Varsity,” the “Red and Blue” or the “University Team.” The junior varsity was called the “Second Team” and the freshmen were nicknamed the “Scrubs”.

Those nicknames stuck with the football team until 1914 when Bill Henry of the Los Angeles Times wrote of J.F. “Pop” McKale’s team, “The Arizona men showed the fight of wild cats” while describing the manner of which the team played in a tough 14-0 loss at defending California champion Occidental on Nov. 7, 1914.

Even though the Arizona Daily Star reprinted Henry’s account on the morning of Nov. 8, 1914, the newspaper never actually referred to the team as the Wildcats and continued to use terms such as “University Team” over the remaining weeks of the season to describe the football team at Arizona.

The school newspaper, “Arizona Life”, was the precursor to the Daily Wildcat and it was printed every Wednesday at the time and it became the first publication to use the term “Wild-Cat” as an actual nickname rather than a description on Nov. 11, 1914, four days after the loss:

“The game was the most important one in the history of the University as it brought out the following facts; that Arizona has the greatest team in the history of its existence; that Arizona has the best Coach and the results of the game was due in a large measure to his efforts and work this season; that Arizona “Wild-Cat,” “Gila Monster,” or whatever you may call it, FIGHTING SPIRIT is here to stay”


Caption here

The 1914 Arizona football team that earned the honor of being named the first “Wildcats” was composed of (front row, left to right): Verne La Tourette, George Seeley, Leo Cloud, Richard Meyer, Asa Porter. Second row: Franklin Luis, Lawrence Jackson, Ray Miller, J.F. “Pop” McKale (coach), Turner Smith, Harry Hobson (manager), Orville McPherson, Albert Crawford, Ernest Renaud. Back row: Albert Condron, Emzy Lynch, Charley Beach, Vinton Hammels, Bill Hendry, George Clawson, Harry Turvey.
(AllSportsTucson.com graphic/Photo from University of Arizona Library Special Collections)

An editorial inside that same edition repeated the term:

“We must have the next two games chalked up as victories for us. We know now you can do it. Go to it Arizona “Wild-Cats” – eat ’em up.”

TEASERS FOR FUTURE “THEY FOUGHT LIKE WILDCATS (1914-2014) POSTS:

— First team from the west to wear numbers on their jerseys.
— First team to call out their student body section for lack of attendance.
— First time a coach took a shot at Tempe Normal (ASU).
— Student section makes nickname official.

ARIZONA ROSTER vs. OCCIDENTAL
(November 7, 1914)

FIRST TEAM
Vinton Hammels: LE, 6-1/163
Ray Miller: LT, 5-11/162
Turner Smith (captain): LG, 6-1/173
Emzy Lynch: C, 5-11/165
Charley Beach: RG, 6-1/170
Bill Hendry: RT, 6-0/164
Lawrence Jackson: RE, 5-11/160
Albert Crawford: QB, 5-10/145
Asa Porter: LH, 5-7/146
Franklin Luis: RH, 5-6/149
Orville McPherson: FB, 5-9/152

SUBSTITUTES
Richard Meyer: QB
Harry Turvey: FB
Albert Condron: LT
George Clawson: LG
Verne La Tourette: LH
Leo Cloud: RH
George Seeley: RE
Ernest Renaud: FB

J.F. “Pop” McKale (coach)
Harry Hobson (manager)

SECOND TEAM
Carpenter
Adams
Hedgepeth
Barth
C. Renaud
Maffeo
Hughes
Yokum

NOTE: Newspaper accounts have “Meyer” spelled “Myers” or “Meyers” on all rosters. First names were almost never used in newspaper accounts.

Andy Morales was recognized by the AIA as the top high school reporter in 2014 and has been a youth, high school and college coach for over 30 years. His own children have won multiple state high school championships and were named to all-state teams. Competing in hockey, basketball, baseball and track & field in high school, his unique perspective can only be found here and on the pages of the Vail Voice. Contact Andy Morales at AMoralesMyTucson@yahoo.com



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