The University of Arizona — the university from which I received two degrees — has an inter-collegiate men’s basketball team. I used to attend their games in Bear Down1 Gymnasium and the team was mediocre, if exciting at times.
Arizona first became competitive under Coach Fred Snowden in the mid-1970s after moving to McKale Center2. And, for the past 31 seasons, beginning in 1984-1985, the Wildcats have been among the elite season-after-season under Coach Lute Olson and now Coach Sean Miller.
Every one of the past 31 seasons has been a winning season — an average of 25.2 wins (and just 8.2 losses) over the time. The Cats have been in 29 of the 31 NCAA Tournaments since it became March Madness 30 years ago — including the one that begins this week. In that run six #1 seeds and six #2s.
Bear Down, Arizona!
1 Bear Down is the official motto of The University of Arizona. In 1926 student body president, frat boy, baseball catcher and quarterback John “Button” Salmon was injured in car accident. Before dying Salmon told Coach McKale, “Tell them … tell the team to bear down.” [George Gipp told Coach Knute Rockne at Notre Dame “win just one for the Gipper” while dying from strep in 1920, but Rockne famously first used Gipp’s words in 1928.]
2 The McKale Center is named for James Fred “Pop” McKale, who was athletic director 1914-1957, basketball coach 1914-1921, football coach 1914-1930, and baseball coach 1915-1919 and 1922-1949. McKale died in 1967.