Arizona Football

No. 18 game in Arizona history: UA earns nickname “Wildcats” in 1914 game vs. Occidental

Arizona’s season opener against NAU at Arizona Stadium on Sept. 2 is 18 days away. To go along with the countdown to kickoff, this site will publish the Top 50 games in Wildcat football history.

NO. 18

SCORE: Occidental Tigers 14, Arizona Varsity 0

DATE: Nov. 7, 1914

SITE: Baer Field, Occidental College, Los Angeles ran a series on the historical 1914 team in 2014 in commemoration of its 100-year anniversary.

WHY IT MADE THE LIST: From a historical standpoint, Arizona’s 14-0 loss to defending California champions Occidental in 1914 is as significant as a game can get. The game was a loss, but the “Varsity” as Arizona was called at the time, put up enough of a fight to alter history. Los Angeles Times correspondent Bill Henry, who graduated from Occidental (a Los Angeles-based school) earlier that year, reported on the game and wrote the most famous sentence that has appeared in print involving the Arizona athletic department:

“The Arizona men showed the fight of wild cats.”

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

Members of the Arizona student body read the report. By the end of that school year, the students put to a vote the idea of “Wildcats” as the new nickname for the school’s teams. Arizona’s nickname has been Wildcats since.

The entire sentence of Henry’s report between Arizona and the Occidental Tigers: “The Arizona men showed the fight of wild cats and displayed before the public gaze a couple of little shrimps who defied all attempts of the Tigers to stop them.” The “couple of little shrimps” Henry wrote about were Arizona’s elusive halfbacks Franklin Luis and William Asa Porter.

Brad Allis

Brad Allis

From the Press Box — Brad Allis, longtime Tucson sports journalisth and radio personality

“Obviously I was not around for this one but I always harken back to something former Sports Information Director Tom Duddleston said. He once mentioned that in either the ‘fight of wild cats’ story or a story leading up to that game, that the writer referred to the Wildcats as “shrimps.” He joked that Arizona might have been named the shrimps. Might I suggest the University of Arizona Prawn or Los Camarones de El Universidad de Arizona!”

The starting lineup of the historic Arizona-Occidental game of 1914 (Desert Yearbook reprint)

The starting lineup of the historic Arizona-Occidental game of 1914 (Desert Yearbook reprint)

Bill Henry, a longtime Los Angeles Times reporter and columnist, was honored by the University of Arizona in 1964 as the “Father of the Wildcats” for his report in 1914 that suggested the UA played Occidental College with the “fight of wild cats”. The UA’s nickname became Wildcats afterward.

The late Henry, who later became a renowned Times columnist and war correspondent, was honored as the “Father of the Arizona Wildcats” at the 50th Homecoming in 1964.

The game in 1964 against Idaho was played 50 years to the exact date when the “Varsity” played Occidental.

J.F. “Pop” McKale was in his first year as Arizona’s coach in 1914. He was the Arizona athletic director from 1914 to 1957 during which time he served as coach of the football team (1914-1930), men’s basketball team (1914-1921) and baseball team (1915-1919 and 1922-1949). McKale Center is named after him. He passed away at 79 years old in 1967, three years after Henry and Arizona’s alumni honored him before the 1964 homecoming game.

Henry, who was an NBC-TV announcer at the time, was the main speaker at the All-Alumni luncheon at the Pioneer Hotel.

“McKale is to sports what fresh cool water is to the desert — everything around him is the better for his coming,” Henry is quoted as saying by the Tucson Daily Citizen. “I saw the game on television a week ago (a 7-0 loss at Air Force). And I’m convinced the Wildcats of 1914 passed the spirit along to the Wildcats of 1964.”

Arizona’s 1914 team, which finished 4-1, is in the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame because of the historical turn of events at Occidental College in 1914. Another fact about the 1914 team: Arizona’s 7-6 victory over Pomona College on Thanksgiving Day that year led to the building of the “A” on Sentinel Peak, west of Tucson (now “A” Mountain).

According to the university, Albert Condron, a member of the 1914 team and a civil engineering student, suggested to one of his professors after the victory over Pomona that a class assignment be made to survey Sentinel Peak for the location of an “A”. The site was cleared of shrubbery and cactus, trenches dug to outline the letter’s foundation.

The roster of the 1914 team, which earned Arizona its nickname of Wildcats:

Charles Beach
George Clawson
Leo Cloud
Albert Condron
Albert Crawford
James Hammels
William Hendry
Henry Hobson (manager)
Lawrence Jackson
Verne LaTourette
Franklin Luis
Emzy Lynch
Orville McPherson
Richard Meyer
Raymond Miller
William Porter
Ernest Renaud
George Seeley
Turner Smith
Harry Turvey

The historic 1914 Arizona football team that earned the school nickname of "Wildcats" (University of Arizona Library Special Collections)

The historic 1914 Arizona football team that earned the school nickname of “Wildcats” (University of Arizona Library Special Collections)

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.

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