They Fought Like Wildcats Centennial (1914-2014)

They Fought Like Wildcats Centennial (1914-2014): Story behind others nicknamed Wildcats



[ezcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]



General history
The games
Comparisons then and now
Wildcats nickname
Military service


[ezcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””]

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.


[ezcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]


Something about cats and dogs that make college football programs proud of their nickname.

Tigers, Wildcats and Bulldogs are the three most used nicknames among the 125 teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS, formerly Division I). Five teams are the Tigers, including three in the same conference (SEC). They are LSU, Missouri and Auburn. Clemson and Memphis are the others. Four are called Wildcats (Arizona, Northwestern, Kentucky and Kansas State) and Bulldogs (Georgia, Fresno State, Mississippi State and Louisiana Tech).


[ezcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””]


Huskies and Cougars are also the nicknames of three schools each.

Two Bobcats, which resemble wildcats, exist with Ohio and Texas State. Therefore, a cat of that nature is the dominant nickname in big-time college football.

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)

[ezcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]

[table “” not found /]


[ezcol_1half_end id=”” class=”” style=””]


The story behind the Arizona Wildcats is the impetus of this series honoring the 100th anniversary of the Hall of Fame Arizona football team. What’s the story behind Kansas State, Kentucky and Northwestern having the same nickname as Arizona?

A Pop Quiz (answer to come at the end): What do Bill Henry, John Bender, Philip W. Corbusier and Wallace Abbey have in common?

Here’s a brief history of each:



The Manhattan, Kan., school used the nicknames of Labradors, Aggies and Farmers before Wildcats gained acceptance in 1920. Kansas State was first called Wildcats by new coach John Bender in 1915 (the same season Arizona started using the nickname officially).

Bender, who coached previously at Washington State, lasted only that 1915 season in Manhattan before going to Tennessee to coach. He started the nickname Wildcats and the homecoming tradition for Kansas State. Arizona’s first homecoming was in 1914. Bender gave his team the nickname Wildcats because he said his squad had the fighting spirit of wildcats, according to the book Wildcats to Powercats: K-State Football Facts and Trivia.

After Bender’s departure, the school became known as the Aggies and Farmers under coach Z.G. Clevenger. When Charles Bachman took over in 1920, he changed the nickname back to Wildcats and it has stuck since.



The nickname Wildcats was adopted by Kentucky after a 6–2 football road victory over Illinois on Oct. 9, 1909. Commandant Philip W. Corbusier, then head of the military department at the university, told a group of students in a chapel service following the game that the Kentucky football team had “fought like wildcats”.

The name Wildcats became popular among Kentucky students as well as with members of the media. As a result, the nickname was adopted by the university and Kentucky’s nickname officially became Wildcats in 1910.



Similar to Arizona, Northwestern’s Wildcats nickname was bestowed upon them by a sportswriter in a hard-fought defeat. Wallace Abbey, a Chicago Daily Tribune reporter, wrote in 1924 that even in a loss to the University of Chicago, “Football players had not come down from Evanston (Ill.); wildcats would be a name better suited to Coach Glenn Thistlewaite’s boys.”

Abbey also referred to Northwestern as a “Purple wall of wildcats.” University board members officially adopted “Wildcats” as the nickname by the end of 1924.

In 1972, the student body voted to change the official nickname from “Wildcats” to “Purple Haze” but the new name never stuck.

Before 1924, Northwestern was known as “The Purple” and unofficially as “The Fighting Methodists”.

* * * * *

Arizona is the victory leader among Wildcats teams. It is 5-1-1 against Kansas State with the last game played in 1978. Its series record against Northwestern is 2-0 with games in 1975 and 1976. Kentucky has never played Arizona in football.

Northwestern is 2-0 against Kansas State (last game in 1941) and 1-0 against Kentucky (1928 meeting).

Kentucky is 3-1 against Kansas State with the last meeting in 1983.

The tally of Wildcats vs. Wildcats: Arizona 7-1-1, Northwestern 3-2, Kentucky 3-2 and Kansas State 2-10-1.

Pop Quiz Answer: As you know by now, those four men (Henry, Bender, Corbusier and Wallace) each generated the nickname “Wildcats” for Arizona, Kansas State, Kentucky and Northwestern, respectively. publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

To Top