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The Arizona Wildcats football team is the football team of the University of Arizona, located in Tucson, Arizona, United States. The team competes in the Pacific-12 Conference at the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision level.
The football team began at the University of Arizona in 1899 under the nickname "Varsity". James "Pop" McKale became the first coach of Arizona football history. On Nov 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 Los Angeles Times correspondent, Bill Henry, wrote that "The Arizona men showed the fight of wildcats".
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. 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. Coach Gerald "Tex" Oliver's "Blue Brigade" played an expanded, more nationwide schedule, Arizona produced their first All-Americans under coach Gerald Tex. The team's 1938 record of 8–2 was a school best to date.
In 1954, under coach Warren B. Woodson, Arizona was led by starting halfback Art Luppino. He went on to lead the nation in rushing, scoring, all-purpose running, and kickoff returns. Art Luppino became the first player in NCAA history to lead the nation in rushing twice. He also tied for the national title in all-purpose running and was third in scoring.
During their time in the WAC conference the Wildcats compiled back-to-back 9–2 seasons under Coach Jim Young, UA's first nine-win campaigns. Receiver Theopolis "T" Bell was named All-American and fullback Jim Upchurch became the second Wildcat to rush for 1,000 yards for two consecutive seasons.