Every great sports team needs a great mascot, right?
At the University of Arizona we’re lucky to have two – Wilbur and Wilma Wildcat.
But the university’s mascot tradition had a rather sad beginning.
In 1915, the freshmen football team purchased a real bobcat to be the university’s first mascot. He was named “Rufus Arizona” after University President Rufus B. von KleinSmid.
On April 17, 1916, Rufus died. The Arizona Wildcat reported that "while endeavoring to perform gymnastics stunts in the limbs of a tree to which he was tied, Rufus Arizona . . . fell and was hung."
Several bobcats succeeded Rufus over the years. Then, on Nov. 7, 1959, the first costumed mascot, created by UA students Richard Heller and John Paquette, was introduced at a football game against Texas Tech University.
Wilbur was an instant hit.
In 1986, Wilbur met Wilma.
The pair met on a blind date on March 1, 1986. They were married on Nov. 21, 1986 before a football game against Arizona State University.
Wilma is known for her friendly personality. She’s often seen waving and blowing kisses to fans.
Wilbur is always spotted at Arizona football and basketball games. And you can find Wilma at women’s volleyball and women’s basketball games.
The identities of the students portraying Wilbur and Wilma are kept secret until the final regular-season home basketball game of the year.