Once Upon A Time
, The University of Arizona
's first mascot, introduced in 1915, was a real desert bobcat
named "Rufus Arizona
" after the U of A president Rufus von KleinSmid. Rufus had many successors over the years, until the practice of using a live animal as a mascot was officially discontinued in the mid-1960's.
The first costumed-student mascot, "Wilbur", appeared during the 1959 football season and was an instant hit. Since then, Wilbur Wildcat's appearance has changed significantly.
Today, as popular as ever, Wilbur even has a mascot wife, Wilma Wildcat. Wilbur and Wilma were married November 21, 1986. Insert PC jokes here.
Of course, Wilbur's most visible role is during the Wildcats' football games, where he is understanably very popular. The person in the costume is kept secret from everyone except for perhaps a few close friends, and a roommate who can figure out that the Wilbur costume in his roommate's closet isn't decoration. During games, when Arizona scores, Wilbur is required to do one one-handed push-up for every point scored, for instance, 7 after a touchdown, and then 14 after another. He does these on a plank held aloft by cheerleaders. I'm sure he likes games that are an Arizona win of 3-0!
The name "Wildcats" was given to the UA after a football game against the Occidental Tigers on Nov. 7, 1914. William "Bill" Henry, a Los Angeles Times columnist, was inspired by the football team's great effort and wrote the words that started a UA tradition: "The Arizona men showed the fight of wildcats."
The Arizona Daily Wildcat (http://wildcat.arizona.edu)