Pop McKale

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Pop McKale
Sport(s) Football, basketball, baseball, track
Biographical details
Born (1887-06-12)June 12, 1887
Lansing, Michigan
Died June 1, 1967(1967-06-01) (aged 79)
Tucson, Arizona
Playing career



Coaching career (HC unless noted)





Administrative career (AD unless noted)
1914–1957 Arizona
Head coaching record
Overall 81–32–6 (football)
49–12 (basketball)
304–118–7 (baseball)
College Football Data Warehouse

James Fred "Pop" McKale (June 12, 1887 – June 1, 1967) was an American football and baseball player, coach of football, basketball, baseball, and track, and college athletics administrator. He served as the head football coach at the University of Arizona from 1914 to 1930, compiling a record of 81–32–6. McKale was also the head basketball coach at Arizona from 1914 to 1921, tallying a mark of 49–12, and the head baseball coach at the school from 1915 to 1919 and again from 1922 to 1949, amassing a record of 304–118–7. In addition, he was the athletic director at Arizona from 1914 to 1957. McKale was inducted into the Arizona Sportsmen Hall of Fame in 1959 and was a charter member of the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame, inducted in 1976. The McKale Center, the University of Arizona's home basketball venue, was opened in 1973 and named in McKale's honor.

Early life[edit]

McKale was born in Lansing, Michigan to William H. and Clara (Bateman) McKale on June 12, 1887.[1] He graduated from Lansing High School in 1905.[2] While enrolled at Albion College, McKale competed in baseball, football, and long jump.[1] McKale was named a two-time All-State athlete in both football and baseball at Albion College. He helped the football team win a Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association championship in 1908 and served as the team's captain in 1908 and 1909. A four-year varsity letter winner in both baseball and football, McKale served as the student president of the MIAA in 1909–10.[3] He graduated with a degree in history and chemistry in 1910.[2]

As a student, McKale was offered a minor league baseball by the Minneapolis Millers.[4] He instead decided to become a teacher and accepted a position in Superior, Wisconsin.[2] The next year, McKale saw an advertisement for a teaching position at Tucson High School in Tucson, Arizona. The school principal, Harold Steele, was a fellow Albion alum and he hired McKale by telegram.[4]

Following his arrival in September 1911, McKale taught history and served as the coach for all of Tucson High's athletic programs.[1] On Thanksgiving that year his football team defeated the University of Arizona junior varsity squad 11–0. After McKale's high schoo; baseball team won a game against the university team, Arizona students began petitioning their school to hire McKale. The University of Arizona hired McKale on June 2, 1914.[4]

McKale married Ada L. Sackett on July 31, 1915. The union produced three daughters: Elizabeth, Ruth, and Marian.[1][2] McKale completed a Master of Education with a minor in law in 1919.[2]

Coaching career[edit]

Upon his arrival at the University of Arizona, McKale served as the school's athletic director and coach for the football and varsity basketball teams. In 1915 he added track and baseball to his coaching duties. He coached the track and basketball teams for 7 seasons.[1] As a basketball coach, McKale achieved a record of 49 wins and 12 losses, going undefeated during the 1914–15, 1915–16, and 1920–21 seasons (season records of 9–0, 5–0, and 7–0 respectively).[5] McKale coached baseball from 1915 to 1949, achieving a record of 302 wins and 102 losses.[1]

As football coach, McKale earned a record of 81 wins, 32 losses and 6 ties between 1914 and 1930.[1] It was in this role that he was also involved in the creation of several of the University of Arizona's athletic traditions. The school's nickname comes from a 1914 game coached by McKale against Occidental College. Following the game a Los Angeles Times reporter wrote "“the Arizona men showed the fight of wildcats…”[1] The school motto came over a decade later. On October 3, 1926, John "Button" Salmon was involved in an automobile accident which caused sever damage to his spine.[6] Salmon was the student body president, starting quarterback, catcher for the baseball team, Sigma Nu member, and member of multiple student honorary organizations.[6][7] McKale visited Salmon every day in the hospital until Salmon's death on October 19. During his last visit, McKale asked if Salmon had a message for the football team. Salmon replied "Tell them ... tell them to bear down." McKale told the football team of Salmaon's message during a pregame talk before their next game.[6] The phrase "Bear Down" became the schools' motto in 1927 following a student led proposal.[6][7]

In addition to his coaching duties, McKale became the University of Arizona's athletic director in 1914.[1] In this role, he oversaw installation of much of the university's initial athletic infrastructure. Bear Down Gym, the university's first basketball arena, was completed in 1926. Arizona Stadium in turn was opened in 1929 and regularly sold out its 27,000 seats. McKale retired in 1957 due to the school's then mandatory retirement age of 70.[4]

Outside of athletics, McKale pursued several other activities. He founded the university's Sigma Nu chapter in 1918.[8] McKale was also interested in history, with his primary focus upon George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. His book, Abraham Lincoln: The Politician, was published in 1957.[1]

McKale received a number of honors for his athletic accomplishments. He was inducted into the Arizona Sportsmen Hall of Fame in 1959, became a charter member of the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame in 1976, and was inducted into the Pima County Sports Hall of Fame in 1996. McKale Memorial Center is named in his honor. The University of Arizona also named a street (since renamed after Fred Enke) and the school's aquatic center (since renamed for a sponsor that provided funds to refurbish the center) after him.[1]

McKale died from a heart attack on June 1, 1967.[9]

Head coaching record[edit]


Year Team Overall Conference Standing Bowl/playoffs
Arizona Wildcats (Independent) (1914–1930)
1914 Arizona 5–1
1915 Arizona 5–3
1916 Arizona 5–3
1917 Arizona 3–2
1918 No team—World War I
1919 Arizona 7–1
1920 Arizona 6–1
1921 Arizona 7–2
1922 Arizona 6–3
1923 Arizona 5–3
1924 Arizona 2–4
1925 Arizona 3–3–1
1926 Arizona 5–1–1
1927 Arizona 4–2–1
1928 Arizona 5–1–2
1929 Arizona 7–1
1930 Arizona 6–1–1
Arizona: 81–32–6
Total: 81–32–6


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Leighton, David (June 17, 2014). "Street Smarts: Before arena, road named for "Pop" McKale". Arizona Daily Star (Tucson). 
  2. ^ a b c d e "James Fred McKale Collection". Tucson: Arizona Historica Society. November 14, 1994. p. 2. Retrieved 20 June 2014. 
  3. ^ "Albion College Hall of Fame - 1998 Inductees". Albion.edu. Archived from the original on December 14, 2006. Retrieved March 28, 2007. 
  4. ^ a b c d Hanson, Greg (August 21, 2011). "Greg Hansen: 'Pop' was the father of athletics at UA". Arizona Daily Star (Tucson). 
  5. ^ "Pop McKale". SR/College Basketball. Sports Reference LLC. Retrieved 26 June 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d Raines, Elaine (January 12, 2010). "The legend of John "Button Salmon" and "Bear Down"". Arizona Daily Star (Tucson). 
  7. ^ a b Linn, Stephen (2007). The Ultimate Tailgater's Pac-10 Handbook. Guilford, Connecticut: Globe Pequot Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-7627-4499-2. 
  8. ^ Adsit, Laury, ed. (1978). The Desert. Volume 68. Taylor Publishing Company. p. 293. 
  9. ^ "J.F. M'Kale is Dead; Athletic Director". New York Times. Associated Press. June 3, 1967. 

External links[edit]