J.F. "Pop" McKale

They Fought Like Wildcats Centennial (1914-2014): McKale, Dempsey from same small Michigan college



[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=””]

They impacted the development of Arizona athletics the most, covering a span of more than a half century, starting 100 years ago when J.F. “Pops” McKale was hired from Tucson High.

If you can believe it, McKale and Cedric Dempsey, the father of Arizona athletics and the savior, respectively, attended the same small college in Michigan 44 years apart. Albion College, a private Methodist college located about 50 miles west of Ann Arbor, produced two of the most important hires in the history of the basketball program.

The coaches they hired — Fred A. Enke Sr. and Lute Olson — have the most victories in Arizona’s history.


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


A picture of the Albion (Mich.) baseball team in 1908. J.F. "Pop" McKale is on the top row, xxx from the left (Albion College photo)

A picture of the Albion (Mich.) baseball team in 1908. J.F. “Pop” McKale is on the top row, second from the left (Albion College photo)

McKale, who attended Albion from 1906-1910, hired Enke as the basketball coach in 1925. Enke lasted 36 years, the longest tenure of any coach at Arizona, and compiled a 509-324 record with the Wildcats. He coached Arizona to its first NCAA tournament in 1951.

Dempsey, who attended Albion from 1950-1954, hired Olson in 1983 to take over a team that went 4-24 a year before his arrival. Olson, who was 589-188 in 24 years at Arizona, built the program to be one of the nation’s traditional powers.

Dempsey, who served as athletic director from 1983-1993 before becoming the NCAA’s executive director, also hired football coach Dick Tomey. Tomey has the most coaching victories in the history of the program.

Aside from these hires, McKale and Dempsey served as respected figureheads of Arizona athletics. Both are inducted in the hall of fames at Albion and Arizona. Arizona’s basketball team plays at McKale Center. Albion’s baseball team plays at Dempsey Field, named after Cedric Dempsey and his wife, June, also an Albion alumnus.

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)

[ezcol_1half id=”” class=”” style=””]

McKale was a two-time all-state athlete in football and baseball at Albion. He helped the football team win a state championship in 1908. He served as the team’s captain in 1908 and 1909. McKale also served as the student president 1909-10.

Dempsey was a versatile athlete at Albion, earning nine letters in three different sports: Football, basketball and baseball. He was selected as an all-conference performer in baseball three consecutive years (1952-1954). While playing basketball, Dempsey earned all-conference honors in 1953 and 1954 and was named the Most Valuable Player his senior year. Dempsey established a single-game scoring record with 38 points against Hope in 1954.


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


Cedric Dempsey arrived at Arizona 49 years after fellow Albion (Mich.) alum J.F. "Pop" McKale started at Arizona in 1914.

Cedric Dempsey arrived at Arizona 49 years after fellow Albion (Mich.) alum J.F. “Pop” McKale started at Arizona in 1914.

From 1959 to 1962, Dempsey served as Albion’s head basketball and cross country coach. The following year he was the dean of men at Albion. He then moved to Tucson for four years to serve as the basketball assistant coach under Bruce Larson. He was also an assistant professor of physical education before a promotion to assistant athletic director.

After serving as athletic director at Pacific from 1967 to 1979, he served in the same capacity at San Diego State for one year and Houston for three years. He then became Arizona’s athletic director in 1983.

He became a member of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball committee while at Arizona. In 1988-89, he served as chair of that committee.

With his hire in 1914, McKale is at the genesis of Dempsey and other coaches and administrators relocating to Tucson. He paved the way for Dempsey to join Arizona in 1963 by building the athletic program to an envious employment position.

Other influential members of Wildcat athletics relocated to Tucson from Michigan. The list includes former athletic director Dave Strack. Strack hired basketball coach Fred Snowden and football coaches Jim Young and Larry Smith, all Michigan assistant coaches before coming to Tucson. Tony Mason was also a Michigan assistant before becoming Arizona’s football coach in 1977.

Rich Rodriguez coached at Michigan before coming to Arizona.

The lineage is amazing and it all starts with Albion College, with an enrollment of only 1,350. What are the odds?

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.

To Top