6 embarrassing facts you didn’t know about the Arizona Wildcats

6. Rufus Arizona, UA’s first live wildcat mascot, hung himself from a tree limb on April 17, 1916—just months after being purchased as the school’s mascot. I suspect he was suicidal after he learned the story of how the university adopted the wildcats nickname.

5. In 1885, when the 13th Territorial Legislature awarded Tucson the University of Arizona (instead of the higher prized appropriations that accompanied the insane asylum or the state capital), Tucson citizens were so angry at receiving a university no one wanted that they pelted their returning legislators with ripe eggs, rotten tomatoes and—foreshadowing their future mascot—a dead cat. Talk about wildcat pride…

4. Nonetheless, U of A heavily promotes that it was Arizona’s first university. What they fail to mention, besides the less-than-proud tradition mentioned above, is that there was little need for a university in the Arizona Territory, which didn’t even have a high school at the time. While the “university” accepted students from its first day of class, the vast majority were placed in a specially established remedial prep school. It took 17 years for university students to outnumber those in prep classes, which were maintained for 23 years. It’s hard not to chuckle when you see a billboard U of A purchased to promote a less-than-proud beginning.

3. The ubiquitous motto of Arizona Athletics is “Bear Down.” The basic story goes like this: star QB gets seriously injured in a car accident. On his death bed, he relays a message to his teammates through his coach, telling the team to “bear down” and inspiring the team to pull off a critical win. Unfortunately, virtually all of this is myth, pure and simple. Details are sketchy, but few comport with the mythology. At best, the motto wasn’t inspirational at all and the team grossly underperformed, nearly losing to a far weaker opponent. At best, it was all just made up by Coach McKale—which seems like the most likely truth.

2. U of A’s original school colors were sage green and silver, representing sage brush and the state’s mining industry. However, in 1900, student manager Quintas J. Anderson was offered, at an extremely low price, a set of used solid blue uniforms trimmed in red. U of A bought the uniforms and changed their school colors to red and blue to match the sale-priced uniforms. So much for tradition, originality, or Arizona pride.

1. On November 7, 1914, the Arizona “Varsity” football team was shut out 14-0 by the team from Occidental College in California. Bill Henry, a student correspondent for the Los Angeles Times, tossing the visitors a bone after a sound defeat, wrote that the Arizona team “showed the fight of wild cats” while getting pummeled by Occidental. For some reason, the fans in Tucson were elated at the newspaper article and eager to adopt the throwaway line of an out of town student sports reporter as their school’s mascot. And it’s been Wildcats ever since.

Seriously, you can’t make this stuff up.

UA has the worst graduation rate of any major sports program in the nation

The University of Arizona and its fans have often, and repeatedly, chided ASU as an academically inferior institution. In particular, UA football coach Mike Stoops has repeatedly lobbed false claims that recruits who chose ASU over UA did so because it was easier to get into ASU, even though admissions standards are set by ABOR and are identical at all three state universities.

When it comes to the academic accomplishments of its athletes, UA is right: things are different in Tucson—but not for the better. For example, earlier this week Stanford’s The Bootleg reported on the results of the NCAA 2010 Graduation Success Rate Report.

For UA, the numbers are nothing short of shameful.

Arizona has fallen into last place. Remarkably, and a fact we would hope Arizona taxpayers would note, U-of-A! also has the worst graduation rate of all major basketball programs and the second-worst graduation rate of all BCS football programs.

Yes, you read that correctly: UA has the worst basketball graduation rate of any major basketball program in the nation, as well as the second-worst graduation rate of all BCS football programs. Worst, and second worst, in the nation.

The “University” of Arizona pulled off an appalling, but impressive hat trick, with the Pac 10’s worst graduation rate in football, basketball, and baseball.

And after reading those stats, it’s not surprising to guess what’s coming next.

Arizona’s graduation rate of 65% for all athletes is the worst for any major sports program.

Yikes—the worst major sports program in the country for graduating student athletes?!! Wow. Even this diehard ASU fan is embarrassed for them in earning such a distinction.

Now, ASU still has room for improvement in the athlete graduation department, but it’s certainly not competing for dead last in the country. In fact, ASU has made some good progress and been a national leader in launching programs like Scholar Baller, which has now been adopted by more than 50 universities.

Of course, none of this should be too surprising. ASU’s been making some serious strides in important measures like increasing freshman retention rates and decreasing loan default rates, even while growing as fast as Phoenix. Arizona, on the other hand, seems to be sitting on its hands and watching those same numbers move in the wrong direction.

That’s probably why UA’s own student paper, the Daily Wildcat, had this say last fall (emphasis mine):

According to a recent poll in The Wall Street Journal, Arizona State University ranks fifth in the nation when it comes to U.S. companies’ desire to hire graduates. The UA did not even crack the top 25.

The UA has spent years pooh-poohing its neighbor to the north, certain in its status as the academically stronger and more rigorous Arizona university. But increasingly over the past several years, that attitude simply doesn’t match up with the facts.

I’m of the opinion that arguing about whether one university is academically better as a whole than another is a futile exercise unless one of those institutions is either among the very best, or among the very worst in the nation. Otherwise, it’s like arguing which color is better: it all depends on how you measure it and the circumstances of the situation you’re in; what works for one student might not work for another. In general, college is like any other learning opportunity: you get out what you put in.

But one thing is clear—the tired old smack talk that UA sports fans often resort to in denigrating ASU’s academics just no longer applies. And that’s really got to hurt for UA faithful to acknowledge.

As the Daily Wildcat article explained, “Painful as it is to say, ASU must be doing something right.” UA clearly isn’t.

Some Arizona Wildcat jokes for the ASU-U of A rivalry game

can't fix stupid

Every rivalry needs some jokes. The annual Duel in the Desert is no different. Below are a few I’ve collected over the years. You may also be interested in some great plays of the Duel in the Desert, or reading up on 5 embarrassing facts about U of A, or checking out an album of UA memes.

Continue reading Some Arizona Wildcat jokes for the ASU-U of A rivalry game