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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “UA has long, rich history”

    The UA has come a long way since its founding 124 years ago. Over the years, students, professors and administrators have come and gone, yet their legacy remains.

    The university is now home to their time-honored traditions that have been carried out by generation after generation of Wildcats.

    Before the next wave of Wildcats takes its place in the classroom and in the stands, it might not be a bad idea to learn something about the campus traditions that have helped to shape the university into what it is today.

    “”The University of Arizona didn’t start out in a traditional fashion,”” said Theodore Gatchell, an aerospace engineering junior and campus ambassador.

    Gatchell explained that the UA was born in Tucson in 1885 only because the Tucson representative of the Arizona Territorial legislature showed up late to a meeting.

    “”The city of Tucson had hoped to receive the appropriation for the state’s mental hospital, which ended up going to Phoenix,”” Gatchell said.

    The town was so mad that it got stuck with the university, that the Tucson representative to the Arizona Legislature was greeted with a barrage of rotten fruit on his return home.

    Considering that Tucson was a primarily agriculture town at the end of the 19th century, no one was willing to step forward and provide the land for the institution until two gamblers and a saloon keeper decided to donate the land where Old Main stands today.

    Classes convened for the first time with 32 students in 1891 – six years after Tucson had been commissioned to start the university.

    Almost as strange as the UA’s origin as a donation from a couple of bar-goers is the story behind the university’s original colors and mascot.

    “”The UA’s original colors were sage green and silver,”” said Heather Hanson, a pre-business sophomore and campus ambassador.

    However, in 1900, Student Athletics Manager Quintas J. Anderson was offered an extremely cheap set of solid blue jerseys trimmed in red. With very little money to spend, Anderson took the jerseys and almost immediately, cardinal red and navy blue were made the new school colors.

    The university’s original mascot, adopted in 1915, was a live desert bobcat named Rufus Arizona, after then-UA President Rufus Bernard von Kleinsmid.

    Rufus’ short stay at the university came to an end only a year after the UA freshman football team bought him for $9.81.

    On April 17, 1916, the Arizona Daily Wildcat reported that, “”While endeavoring to perform gymnastic stunts in the limbs of a tree to which he was tied, Rufus Arizona…fell and was hung.””

    “”The first costumed-student mascot, Wilbur, was introduced in 1959,”” Gatchell said. “”He has stuck with us ever since.””

    Another campus tradition that remains close to the heart of the university is the slogan, “”Bear Down.””

    The slogan was adopted by the UA in 1926, after student body president and varsity athlete John “”Button”” Salmon gave a dying message to his teammates, following Salmon’s car accident that left him with a severe spinal cord injury.

    “”He told his coach to tell the team to ‘bear down,'”” Hanson said.

    Shortly after Salmon’s death, the slogan was adopted by the university.

    Almost 30 years later, Jack K. Lee, while flying into Tucson to interview for the UA’s band directorship, was inspired to write the UA fight song, “”Bear Down, Arizona,”” after observing the huge letters on the roof of the UA gymnasium.

    For those incoming freshmen interested in being a part of the UA tradition, each autumn is marked by the re-painting of the “”A”” on A-Mountain, just outside of Tucson.

    “”It’s a great way to start the school year,”” Hanson said.

    The UA has had a long history marked by peculiar events and the triumphs and sacrifices of numerous Wildcats. From the U.S.S. Arizona Bell hanging in the Bell Tower – one of the two original bells salvaged from the U.S.S. Arizona after the attack on Pearl Harbor – to Spring Fling, the largest student-run carnival in the nation, Arizona’s countless traditions will give new freshman a wide variety of historic traditions to check out this fall.

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