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Pop McKale fitting name for father of Arizona Wildcats football

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100 DAYS UNTIL KICKOFF 2013
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The Arizona football team begins its 2013 season against Northern Arizona at Arizona Stadium on Aug. 30, which is 75 days away. From now until then, this Web site will count down the days with facts about the Wildcats, their players, coaching staff and opponents. This is not a ranking, only a list of 100 facts and observances related to the 2013 Arizona football team and coach Rich Rodriguez.

Related Father’s Day article: Steve Rivera of FoxSportsArizona.com writes about the bond between Rodriguez and his father.

James Fred "Pop" McKale led the UA football program in coaching victories until 1996

James Fred “Pop” McKale led the UA football program in coaching victories until 1996

If J.F. “Pop” McKale is the father of Arizona football, John “Button” Salmon is the glorious son.

As the story goes, McKale was by Salmon’s side Oct. 18, 1926, when the Wildcats’ captain was on his deathbed after suffering a severely damaged spinal cord in an automobile accident. “Tell them … tell the team to bear down,” Salmon told McKale to tell his teammates. A day later, Salmon passed away and the legend of “Bear Down” was born.

The story never gets old. McKale was in the middle of a 16-year run as the football coach, the longest tenure in UA history. He was also 12 years into his 44-year term as the UA’s athletic director.

He was responsible for the evolution of the UA football program and athletic department overall. The father of Arizona sports is an apt title for McKale, especially with this being Father’s Day.

Although McKale coached his last football game 83 years ago, he remains the second-leading career winning coach in the UA’s history. He posted 60 career victories over collegiate competition. It took 66 years after McKale left coaching in 1930 for another coach — Dick Tomey — to top him in career victories.

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Former Arizona football caoch Dick Tomey, the program's career leader in coaching victories, was honored by the UA in 2010 along with his wife Nancy Kincaide, son Rich (a former UA baseball player) and Rich's wife Rachelle (Rich Tomey photo)

Former Arizona football coach Dick Tomey, the program’s career leader in coaching victories, was honored by the UA in 2010 along with his wife Nanci Kincaid, son Rich (a former UA baseball player) and Rich’s wife Rachelle (Rich Tomey photo)

Tomey, a unique dad in UA football history, is the school’s record-holder for most victories with a 95-64-4 career mark in 14 seasons. Tomey is the school’s only head football coach whose son competed at Arizona. Rich Tomey played baseball for the Wildcats from 1993-95.

Some other notable father-son combinations involved former UA assistant coaches.

Willie Peete Sr., a football letterman from 1956-59, was on Larry Smith’s staff when and his son Willie “Skip” Peete III played with the Wildcats in 1981-82. Bill Baker played football at Arizona from 1973-76 when his father, William Sr.. was an assistant coach.

Father-son combinations, other than the Peetes, who were on the Arizona roster in the modern era included Randy Robbins (1980-83) and Josh Robbins (who signed with UA in 2010 but never played because of back problems) and Vaughn S. (also “Skip”) Corley (1953-55) and Vaughn S. Corley Jr. (1980).

Arizona has two players who have famous baseball fathers — junior linebacker Hank Hobson and redshirt freshman receiver Trey Griffey. Hobson’s dad, Butch Hobson, played six years with the Boston Red Sox. Griffey’s father is Ken Griffey Jr., son of Cincinnati Reds great Ken Griffey Sr.

The famous Griffey name synonymous with baseball greatness adorns the UA football locker room with receiver Trey Griffey on the team

The famous Griffey name that is synonymous with baseball greatness adorns the UA football locker room with receiver Trey Griffey on the team

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The best No. 75 to wear the Arizona uniform according to Anthony Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com is offensive lineman Mike Freeman (1981-83). The Sahuaro High School alum was second-team all-Pac-10 as senior and played in the NFL with Denver.

WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes blogs for Lindy’s College Sports, TucsonCitizen.com and Sports Illustrated-sponsored site ZonaZealots.com.

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