J.F. "Pop" McKale

They Fought Like Wildcats Centennial (1914-2014): McKale established identity for Arizona in first season



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General history
J.F. “Pop” McKale
The games
Comparisons then and now
Wildcats nickname
Military service
The players


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Clipping of actual L.A. Times article published Nov. 8, 1914

Clipping of actual L.A. Times article published Nov. 8, 1914

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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J.F. "Pop" McKale was Arizona's fourth football coach in as many years when he took over in 1914

J.F. “Pop” McKale was Arizona’s fourth football coach in as many years when he took over in 1914

In the 13 years before J.F. “Pop” McKale was hired with a price tag of $1,700 to lead Arizona’s athletic program in 1914-15, the Varsity football team had nine different head coaches.

McKale became the fourth different football coach in as many years when he took over the Varsity in 1914. That kind of turnover has happened only one time since, from 1930 to 1933. McKale coached his last football game in 1930 and was followed by Fred A. Enke (1931), Gus Farwick (1932) and Tex Oliver (1933-37).

By that time in the 1930s, McKale had the entire athletic program on solid ground, allowing the Wildcats to persevere through the four-year stretch with an 18-14-2 record. The Arizona yearbook The Desert in 1914-15 painted a different picture of Arizona’s program when the 27-year-old McKale left Tucson High School after only three years to take over Varsity athletics.

“McKale came to the University at the beginning of this year at a most difficult and trying time,” the yearbook reads. “Everything was torn up so far as Athletics were concerned, and no one dared offer a solution to such an uncertain and stupendous problem.


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No. 28: Unlike Rodriguez today, McKale afforded three preseason games in 1914
No. 29: The “Wildcat Yell” hits Arizona’s campus in 1914-15
No. 30: Update of player size then and now
No. 31: Raymond Miller, left tackle
No. 32: Lawrence Richard Jackson, right end
No. 33: Albert Condron, left tackle
No. 34: Richard Meyer, quarterback


“It was certainly definitely established the first afternoon out, that he had the personality to get the most and the best work from each and every man, and it was not long before even the most pessimistic could plainly see that our football team was to be a championship contender.”

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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What they were talking about on this day in 1914

Sunday, Aug. 2, 1914

Russia invades Germany as World War I has actually begun. The United States remains neutral and observant of the war’s development. President Woodrow Wilson does not make an attempt to mediate the countries involved in the conflict. Attempts to prevent the war by England and Italy proved futile already, so the United States took a wait-and-see stance of how the war developed.

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J.F. "Pop" McKale coached Arizona's football team for xx years and was the school's athletic director for xx years (University of Arizona Library Special Collections)

J.F. “Pop” McKale coached Arizona’s football team for 16 years and was the school’s athletic director for 43 years (University of Arizona Library Special Collections)


Before McKale started in 1914, Arizona played only 13 games of consequence — games against universities with a similar talent level — in the 13 years of the program’s existence at that point. Those games were against Pomona (Calif.), Loyola (Calif.), New Mexico, New Mexico State and Occidental (Calif.). Arizona’s record in those 13 games: 6-7. Its record against the California teams: 0-3, outscored 123-5.

The program did not have an identity. McKale established one in his first year in 1914 with the hard-fought loss at powerhouse Occidental, the shutout of New Mexico State 10-0 and the rousing homecoming victory over Pomona 7-6 on Thanksgiving Day. The Varsity was crowned the champion of the Southwest with its win over New Mexico State and Pomona, which upset Occidental before traveling to Tucson.

“Taking a team composed of seven Freshmen and several other men of little or no experience, he produced a team which at the end of the season, could look back upon the glory of undisputed champions of the Southwest and of Southern California,” the yearbook reads. “Not only was this team praised in our own University but there was not a College in Southern California nor a paper in Los Angeles, after the Pomona and Occidental games, but gave us all due credit for our success.”

Mac, as he was called, had the same allure back then as Lute Olson has now in Tucson, a leader through strong conviction that built something out of turmoil when he took over. The next read from The Desert describes McKale’s impact on the campus and community in 1914:

J.F. "Pop" McKale in his first year at Arizona in 1914. He was only 27.

J.F. “Pop” McKale in his first year at Arizona in 1914. He was only 27.

“It is not at all difficult to understand Mac’s success. If one who might ask could have the privilege of a short acquaintance with him and his methods, he would find first of all a gentleman; a man who instantly commands the respect of his men; a man with a thorough knowledge and capable in every way, and a man who by his untiring efforts for the success of his teams has won the respect and admiration of each and every member of the Student Body. We all feel that we have been unusually lucky to get such a man. We have, every one of us, put our confidence in Mac. We have done great things through his help, but we feel that they are only the herald of greater things to come and when we again start out on a new year we hope conditions will be more favorable and give to Mac every chance to use every means to again turn out championship teams and even surpass our success of this year.”

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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