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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats football honoring Arizona’s mining history with copper helmets

Benjamin Benschneider
KRT US NEWS PHOTO FOR USE WITH RELATED STORIES KRT PHOTOGRAPH BY BENJAMIN BENSCHNEIDER/SEATTLE TIMES (KRT502-October 12) This open pit copper mine near Morenci, Arizona, is the largest in North America. For perspective, the trucks visible on the roads are six times larger than the average dump truck. (SE) PL 1998 (Horiz) — NO MAGS, NO SALES —

The five C’s of Arizona: Most elementary school students in the state of Arizona know them.

“Copper, cotton, citrus,” said Arizona defensive tackle Tevin Hood, who hails from Chandler, Ariz. “I forget what the other ones are.”

The other two are climate and cattle, and together the five C’s are considered the foundation of the Arizona economy.

One of those C’s will make its influence known at Arizona Stadium this weekend when the Wildcats take on Oregon State.

Copper and the history of copper mining in Arizona are the inspiration for the new alternate copper helmets the Wildcats (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) will debut this weekend in their Pac-12 home opener against No. 18 Oregon State (2-0, 1-0 Pac-12) at Arizona Stadium.

The UA was founded as an agricultural school, but also had a strong mining program, largely due to the amount of minerals in the soil and the mountains across the Arizona landscape.

Mining for copper was not always as profitable as it is today.

Today copper is used for railroads, clean and efficient water distribution, and electrification.

“Everything with an on and off switch needs copper,” said Dr. Mary Poulton, the head of the department of Mining and Geological Engineering.

Arizona currently produces about 60 percent of the U.S. copper supply, according to Poulton, but prior to becoming a world leader in copper mining, Arizona struggled with the metal because it is harder to mine as gold and silver.

“Silver and gold were relatively easy to process because you mine them in their native element state,” Poulton said. “Copper is a lot more complex.”

Before smelters were built in southern Arizona, copper ore was shipped by wagon to San Francisco, then loaded on a boat to Wales in the United Kingdom, where it was melted down to usable copper metal before being shipped back.

Along with red brick, copper is the most used substance on the UA campus, whether in pipes, electrical wiring or the new tracks that will be used for the Sun Link Tucson Modern Streetcar.

Hood appreciates the importance of copper to the state of Arizona, the state he grew up in.

“I know it played a major role in the development of the state,” Hood, a graduate of Hamilton High School, said. “We went to the state history museum when I was in elementary school and learned about the five C’s.”

Arizona’s latest addition to its uniforms will not include a similarly colored jersey or pair of pants, so the helmet will be worn with the red, white or blue jerseys the Wildcats already have.

“It’s always special to get new things, like last year with the white helmets,” said junior guard Chris Putton, a Glendale, Ariz. native. “We’re all pretty excited for those.”

The introduction of the copper hats comes at a time in college football when schools are constantly upgrading their uniform combinations for recognition, recruiting or simply to gain a mental edge over an opponent.

“That’s the age of college football,” UA receivers coach Tony Dews said. “Uniforms and different colors and things excite the kids. Whatever makes them happy and makes them play better.”

The Wildcats are coming off a 49-0 thrashing against No. 2 Oregon, so to some, the introduction of the copper domes will be a re-introduction of sorts for Arizona football.

“I think after that bad game, it’s the perfect time to bring them out and show people that it was just a fluke,” Putton said. “We’re ready to play.”

Sophomore running back Ka’Deem Carey, a Tucson native, added, “Having the copper helmets brings out the state more. It puts it out there nationwide what we do in Arizona.”

Even though the copper helmets are intended to honor the importance of copper to Arizona, Poulton doesn’t anticipate the helmet bringing very much attention to copper and Arizona’s history of mining.

“It would be great to think that people would think of that [Arizona’s mining history], but I don’t know how many will make the connection,” Poulton said. “For those of us in the industry, we think it’s really nice for the athletic department to give recognition to the history of the copper mining industry.”

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