Comparisons then and now

They Fought Like Wildcats Centennial (1914-2014): Comparison of salaries then and now

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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.

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Rich Rodriguez's base salary could reach close to $2 million by 2019 (YouTube video capture)

Rich Rodriguez’s base salary could reach close to $2 million by 2019 (YouTube video capture)

The recent news of Arizona Wildcats football coach Rich Rodriguez’s contract extension includes salary figures that J.F. “Pop” McKale could not fathom in 1914.

The dickens, you say. You can imagine McKale using the popular phrase of that time.

The 100th anniversary of the hiring of McKale as Arizona’s athletic director and coach of all sports is Monday, June 2. The young coach and administrator was hired from Tucson High School after his three brief successful years there after moving from the Midwest.

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McKale’s price tag for Arizona upon his hire: $1,700.

Rodriguez was hired by Arizona in 2011 for a base salary of $1,005,000.

His current deal expires Nov. 30, 2017. The recently proposed extension would increase Rodriguez’s annual base salary of $1.33 million to $1.5 million. The salary then would increase $100,000 every June 1 through 2018, when it would reach $1.9 million.

Rodriguez also earns $495,000 annually for peripheral duties such as radio and TV appearances. Under the proposed deal, that sum would increase to $500,000.


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)

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Arizona’s president who hired McKale — A.H. Wilde — was personally opposed to bringing the 27-year-old on board because the young coach lacked experience at the collegiate level. McKale, however, had a groundswell of support from a majority of the 300 or so students at Arizona after his Tucson High baseball teams convincingly beat Tempe Normal (ASU) and Arizona.

A petition signed by the students swayed Wilde, who was a spendthrift compared to his replacement in 1915: Rufus Bernhard von KleinSmid.

Von KleinSmid reduced McKale’s pay to $835 to coach football, basketball, baseball, track and tennis. McKale was appropriated funds of only $575 to coach the football team in 1915.

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“McKale was always fighting the president for more money,” an unidentified player was quoted as saying in Abe Chanin’s 1979 book They Fought Like Wildcats. “Von KleinSmid was just not that interested in college athletics.”

If that was the case, von KleinSmid was hypocritical by what he did at USC after leaving Arizona in 1921. He served as USC’s president for 26 years and paved the way for the football program to become a traditional power. USC won four national titles during von KleinSmid’s time there.

Despite a lack of support from Arizona's presidents upon his start at the university 100 years ago, legendary J.J. "Pop" McKale never gave up on the "Varsity", which became "Wildcats" in his first year as coach

Despite a lack of support from Arizona’s presidents upon his start at the university 100 years ago, legendary J.J. “Pop” McKale never gave up on the “Varsity”, which became “Wildcats” in his first year as coach

Also a skilled fencer, von KleinSmid established USC’s Fencing Club. Not that interested in college athletics?

The dickens, you say.

Thankfully for Arizona, McKale stuck with the program despite the financial struggles with the president’s office. He became the Father of the Wildcats and played a significant part in the school’s motto of “Bear Down” in 1926. That’s when John “Button” Salmon, on his deathbed from an automobile accident, asked McKale to “tell the team to bear down” before a game late in the season.

An emphasis on the development of Arizona’s athletic program did not happen until Cloyd Heck Marvin was hired a year after von KleinSmid’s departure. Marvin was Arizona’s president from 1922-1927. Bear Down Gym was built and plans for Arizona Stadium were generated under Marvin’s watch.

Homer LeRoy Shantz, Arizona’s president from 1928-1936, spearheaded fund-raising efforts for the construction of Arizona Stadium. The stadium was built a year into his tenure in Tucson.

McKale’s $1,700 salary upon his hire in 1914 is the equivalent of $39,995 today, according to a cost-of-living calculator provided by the American Institute for Economic Research. Rodriguez’s proposed contract increase to $1.5 million is comparable to $63,829 in 1914.

Gas cost only an average of 15 cents in 1914, but to McKale, that was similar to what we pay today using the cost-of-living calculator. It equates to $3.52 today.

For all that he did as Arizona’s athletic director and coach for various teams, McKale was grossly underpaid when comparing cost-of-living costs today with 1914. Much of it had to do with the uncertainty of athletic programs and their value at that time. The winds of change were gradual.

Heck, Arizona was a one-year contract state for coaches until 1987.

Revenue from the TV contracts today make college athletics a multi-million dollar industry. Rodriguez’s contract terms with Arizona were labeled a “bargain” when he was hired in 2011.

The dickens, you say.

Yes, Pop.

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com 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.

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