Campus Guide: UA Sports 101 - Basics of being a Wildcat
Wilbur keeps Sparky the Sun Devil, ASU’s mascot, away from Wilma during the UA vs. ASU basketball game in the 2013-14 season. Wilbur and Wilma were married in 1986.
Editor’s note: This article is part of the Arizona Summer Wildcat’s 2014 Campus Guide. The Campus Guide is a special issue that runs every year to help introduce incoming students to the UA and campus life.
Arizona’s nickname dates back almost 100 years.
In 1914, Los Angeles Times reporter Bill Henry, who would go on to be a renowned columnist, wrote, “The Arizona men showed the fight of wildcats,” in response to the UA’s loss at Occidental College.
After reading the story, the student body quickly voted to start calling Arizona sports teams “Wildcats” rather than “Varsity.”
Arizona originally had a live mascot, a bobcat named “Rufus,” but now features Wilbur T. Wildcat and Wilma Wildcat, who were married in 1986.
Arizona’s slogan comes from John “Button” Salmon’s last words to his team.
Salmon, then UA quarterback, catcher and student body president, suffered a fatal car accident in 1926. His last message to the Wildcats, given to J.F. “Pop” McKale, head football coach and athletic director, was: “Tell them … tell the team to bear down.”
It quickly became Arizona’s motto and students painted it on the roof of the university gymnasium after his death.
While applying for the job of band director, Jack Lee saw it written on what became Bear Down Gymnasium from his plane and wrote “Bear Down, Arizona,” the UA’s primary fight song. Obviously, he got the job.
Seeing red (and blue)
Long before football teams unveiled their uniforms in fashion shows, Arizona’s school colors were sage green and silver.
However, a student manager for Arizona’s first football team in 1899, Quintus J. Anderson, got a good deal on blue sweaters with red trim. He requested the colors be adopted, and from then on, the UA’s primary colors have been cardinal red and navy blue.
In 2012, the football team introduced copper helmets to honor the state’s long tradition of mining. Copper is one of the five Cs that school kids in Arizona learn are the foundation of the state’s economy.
The football team wore both the red jerseys and blue jerseys three times, but the men’s basketball team strongly favored red uniforms, only wearing its blue ensemble in one road game. UA fans, especially the ZonaZoo, wear red unless it is a “White out” game or something similar.
A mountain of a monument
Overlooking most of Tucson and the UA is “A” Mountain.
On top of Sentinel Peak, UA students built a 160-foot high by 70-foot wide “A” almost 100 years ago. It was constructed between Nov. 13, 1915 and March 4, 1916 to celebrate Arizona football’s 7-6 upset victory over Pomona College.
The ZonaZoo crew
The ZonaZoo grew from modest roots — a T-shirt — into one of the biggest student sections in the country.
In 2002, a T-shirt was made for student season ticket holders for men’s basketball. In 2003, the ZonaZoo became the student section for all Arizona varsity sports.
Last season, ESPN named the ZonaZoo as the best football student section in the Pac-12.
Join the club
Arizona sports isn’t just limited to the varsity teams.
UA club sports range from hockey, which draws thousands of fans a game, to ballroom dancing.
Campus Recreation also offers intramurals in sports like basketball, soccer and flag football in men’s, women’s and co-rec varieties.
—Follow James Kelley @JamesKelley520