They Fought Like Wildcats Centennial: Arizona “Varsity” routs Tempe Normal 100 years ago today




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.”


Think the Arizona/ASU rivalry began with Frank Kush in the 1960’s? Hardly.

Tempe Normal won the first meeting 11-2 in 1899 and Arizona returned the favor with a 12-0 victory in 1902. The schools did not meet again until 1914. The hiring of James Fred “Pop” McKale away from Tucson High on June 2 of 1914 completely changed how the “Red and Blue” felt, or rather, didn’t feel about that school up north.

McKale came in to the so-called “rivalry” with very little respect for football teams in Phoenix after both Phoenix Union High School and Phoenix Indian School balked at traveling to Tucson to play his powerful Badger teams. According to news accounts, Tempe Normal was reluctant to play Arizona in 1914. The school up north abandoned football after the 1906 season and made a return in 1914.

One can just imagine that they knew what would be in store for them with McKale on the sidelines.

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.
( graphic/Photo from University of Arizona Library Special Collections)

The headline of the Arizona Republican on Nov. 1, 1914, a day after Arizona beat Tempe Normal (now ASU) 34-0 in Tucson

The headline of the Arizona Republican on Nov. 1, 1914, a day after Arizona beat Tempe Normal (now ASU) 34-0 in Tucson

The Arizona Republican in Phoenix mentioned the game between the Arizona Varsity and Tempe Normal on Halloween Day 1914 only among a list of other scheduled games that day. It was actually considered only a scrimmage between the teams with Arizona starting its three-game regular season the following week at Occidental.

The Republican featured prominently a story instead of Tucson High School facing Phoenix High School in a football game. Both schools agreed to attend a postgame party sponsored by the Republican at what was called the Columbia. High school football was obviously far more popular than the college variety, especially in Phoenix, at the time.

McKale went on to go 8-0 against Tempe Normal with an embarrassing scoring margin of 219 to 3. That’s seven shutouts, including his 34-0 plastering of the “Normals” in 1914. Arizona would go on the build a 20-2 record against ASU before the “Normals”, “Bulldogs” and “Sun Devils” began to get competitive in 1949.

Not only did McKale feel Tempe Normal was no more than a disappointing “practice squad”, the student body and the school newspaper — Arizona Life — also used the games against them as a way to practice their cheers for more important games.

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

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