A’AGA: Something To Be Told

September 2, 2016


By Bill Allen


Do you feel that cool breeze? September ‘at jiva! Time to think about sweaters; so:ba – a hot breakfast soup made from old tortillas; sitting jekkud or outside. Time to toss and kick around the ol’ ko:ji elidag or pig skin and pretend we are bol cicvidam or ball players.


Ancient ball courts in our homeland show our fondness for healthy competition. As time went on we joined mainstream American sports. Can you imagine any modern tribal fair without a tournament, rodeo, or a run!


I was happy to get that big envelope in the mail – football season tickets for the Normals - make that Owls – no, make it Bulldogs – correction, Sun Devils arrived. Through the many years, Arizona State University athletic teams have competed under those names.


When ASU was founded in 1885 its original name was Arizona Territorial Normal School. (That name might seem a bit strange – “back in the day” teachers’ colleges were often called “normal schools” because teachers taught academic “norms.” Today the more commonly used synonym is “standards.”)


When the Normals began organized football they often played against local high schools. The Phoenix Indian School Braves beat the “Normals” in 1896 and four years later, the Braves beat the “Owls.”


These games were big events, and railroad tickets to ride from Tempe to Phoenix went for 35 cents! (A side note: back in 1900, a pound of coffee was 9 cents and a can of Campbell’s Soup was 5 cents. Not sure if “Indian tacos” were being sold back then.)


In 1905, a University of Arizona publication placed five Indians on the All-Arizona Team: Doolittle and Johnny of Phoenix Indian School; Mathews of Tucson Indian School; Petgely and Whitman of Sacaton Indian School.


In 1925, Tempe State Teachers College “Bulldogs” played the Sacaton Indians, winning 55-0. The Bulldogs first homecoming was in 1926 against Phoenix Indian School; final score: a 0-0 tie. Overall the Normal/Bulldog record again the Phoenix Indian School was 12 wins, 7 losses, 1 tie.


In 1932, the Bulldogs beat the Casa Blanca Indians by a score of 99-0! “Sun Devil” was first used on Nov. 21, 1946 – the result of a student body vote earlier in the month. In 1948, Sparky made his debut. Bert Anthony, a Walt Disney artist who designed the ASU mascot, also designed the old Stanford Indian symbol.   


On Oct. 1, 1891, the University of Arizona opened its doors. In 1899, one of their games was against the Tucson Indian Training School. (The Tucson Indian School (aka “Escuela”) was established in 1888 by the Presbyterian Church. In 1894, the head of the Indian School, Reverend H. Billman, resigned to become chancellor and later president of the University of Arizona.)


On Thanksgiving Day 1894 the University of Arizona hosted the Tempe Normals.   A crowd of over 300 watched the Normals win the very first Territorial Cup, 11-2.   The U of A got its name in 1914, when they traveled to California to play Occidental, losing 14- 0. The Los Angeles Times wrote, “The Arizona men showed the fight of wildcats.”


The name stuck, and the next year a live wildcat named Rufus Arizona arrived on campus. No nine lives though — six months later the student newspaper, the Arizona Wildcat, reported “...while endeavoring to perform gymnastic stunts in the limbs of a tree to which he was tied, Rufus Arizona..fell and was hung.” Eventually Wilbur and Wilma took over the roles of mascots.


When I was a child, my father would take us to watch ASU football – for free. We’d climb the eastern butte to watch the games, boulders for seating. I didn’t know of the O’otham/Piipaash connection back then and now I think all of us will be watching the games together.


Information was gathered from several internet sites and all did not agree.