The varsity football program at the University of Arizona began in 1899, though the Wildcats nickname was not adopted until later. became the first head coach of Arizona football history and the team compiled a 1–1–1 record. From 1900 to 1901, served as head football coach at the University of Arizona. While there, he also studied . He guided Arizona to 3–1 and 4–1 records, respectively. On November 7, 1914, the team traveled to the west coast to play Occidental, then one of the reigning gridiron powers in California. Occidental won 14–0. Arizona later received the name "Wildcats" after a correspondent, Bill Henry, wrote that "The Arizona men showed the fight of wildcats". was a very successful high school coach in the Tucson area when he was hired at UA. In 1921, Drop-kicker/receiver Harold "Nosey" McClellan led the nation in scoring with 124 points. Wildcats finished the regular season 7–1, and were invited to UA's first bowl game, the East-West Christmas Classic in San Diego, to play powerhouse Centre College of Kentucky; Arizona lost the game 38–0. The Wildcats did not compete in football in 1918 due to . On October 18, 1926 UA quarterback and student body president John "Button" Salmon died from injuries sustained in a car wreck. His final words, spoken to coach "Pop" McKale, were: "Tell them.....tell the team to Bear Down." Soon thereafter, the UA student body adopted "Bear Down" as the school's athletic motto. On October 18, 1929, Arizona opened up Arizona Stadium for college football play. They won their first game against Caltech with a shutout score of 25–0. McKale retired after sixteen seasons at Arizona. The , the University of Arizona's home basketball venue, was opened in 1973 and named in McKale's honor.
The university's mascots are a pair of named . The identities of Wilbur and Wilma are kept secret through the year as the mascots appear only in costume. In 1986, Wilbur married his longtime wildcat girlfriend, Wilma. Together, Wilbur and Wilma appear along with the squad at most Wildcat sporting events. Arizona's first mascot was a real desert named "Rufus Arizona", introduced in 1915.
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The team began at The University of Arizona in 1899 under the nickname "Varsity" (a name kept until the 1914 season when the team was deemed the "Wildcats").
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Like many large public universities in the U.S., sports are a major activity on campus, and receive a large operating budget. Arizona's athletic teams are nicknamed the Wildcats, a name derived from a 1914 football game with then California champions , where the asserted that, "the Arizona men showed the fight of wildcats." The University of Arizona participates in the 's Division I-A in the , which it joined in 1978.
22/21 Second Round: Saint Mary's