By Joan Fudala
Friendly touch football games in the park, high school rivalries, college bowl games, Cardinals watch parties, and the big daddy of them all, the NFL Super Bowl—you can’t argue that Scottsdale has great gridiron history. Whether the game is played here or the city benefits from the proximity of play, Scottsdale always comes out a big winner during bowl season. We’ve also groomed numerous high school and community college players for the big leagues, and have welcomed former players as residents and business owners.
For Scottsdale, 1934 is a good place to start. That year, Scottsdale High School fielded its first competitive team and made the first touchdown for the Scottsdale Beavers. With few high schools in the Valley at the time, the Beavers played as far away as Litchfield Park and Wickenburg. During the 1940s World War II years, Scottsdale High’s enrollment of young men was so low that the school played a six-man squad. Thanks to the post-war Baby Boom of the 1950s and 1960s, Scottsdale High’s team got back to a more robust 11 players, and Scottsdale residents turned out to cheer for additional high schools like Arcadia and Coronado.
You often hear old-timers waxing poetic about their “salad years.” If they came to the Valley to play in a post-season college matchup after World War II, then they are remembering the Kiwanis Club of Phoenix-sponsored Salad Bowl. Dubbed one of the top-10 weirdest names for college bowl games, the Salad Bowl was held on New Year’s Day as a college football post-season game between 1948 and 1952. It continued for a few more years as a game between an assortment of teams, and benefited handicapped children in the metro Phoenix area.
Since there were no professional sports teams and few major sports events in the Valley in the late 1940s/early 1950s, the Salad Bowl was a big deal. Scottsdale residents eagerly took part in the pageantry and as spectators.
During its five-year run, the Salad Bowl hosted matchups like Nevada vs. North Texas State Teachers College, Drake vs. Arizona, Xavier vs. Arizona State College (ASC), Miami of Ohio vs. ASC, and Houston vs. Dayton. Legendary “Whizzer” White played his final game for Arizona State during the 1951 Salad Bowl in which Miami University beat ASC 34-21 (Whizzer died in Mesa on Aug. 1, 2013). After 1952, Salad Bowls pitted famed military teams, such as the contest between the Great Lakes Naval Training Center Bluejackets and Fort Ord Warriors on Jan. 1, 1954.
There was much hype leading up to the big game, starting with a Salad Bowl queen contest. Scottsdale High School always nominated a princess, who, along with coeds from other high schools around the state, rode in convertibles along the downtown Phoenix parade route. The parade ended at Montgomery Stadium on the Phoenix Union High School campus, where the game was played. Quaintly, the Salad Bowl queen contestants and their chaperoning mothers were boarded at the nurses’ quarters at Good Samaritan Hospital, where a tea was held in their honor. Bands for the Salad Bowl Parade were quartered on the sleeping porches of dormitories at Arizona State College. Marching in the Salad Bowl Parade was an annual highlight for the SHS Beaver Band.
One of the competing Salad Bowl teams always stayed at the Jokake Inn, now a historic site on the grounds of The Phoenician Resort. A Salad Bowl team used the Scottsdale High School field for their pre-game workouts, finding that its then-remote location gave them some privacy from fans.
Too bad the Salad Bowl wasn’t around when Scottsdale Community College was established in 1969-1970. Its team, the Fighting Artichokes, would have been a natural in the Salad Bowl (groan).
During 1972, and indicative of the student unrest that marked the era, SCC students expressed disapproval of the emphasis put on athletic funding, and the inadequacy of the school library and other academic programs. Students were asked to vote for a school mascot name. Although the artichoke was the overwhelming student choice, the Scottsdale Daily Progress reported in November 1972 that drovers, avengers, zebras, bikers and sunrisers also got votes. It took two and a half years for the students to prevail upon the Maricopa County Community College District governing board to approve Artichoke as the official mascot and athletic team name. Artie Artichoke became a beloved mascot for the college’s teams; however, the school colors were changed to green and gold (from pink and white).
Showing just how tough Artichokes are, SCC teams have won numerous National Junior College Athletic Association championships. The Artichoke football team recently won the Valley of the Sun Bowl, and was ranked No. 4 in the country. SCC Artichokes who have gone on to play professional football include:
• Jeff Feagles, former Our Lady of Perpetual Help elementary school student and SCC football player, punted for the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals, Seattle Seahawks and the New York Giants until retiring in 2010. Playing 22 seasons, he set an NFL record for most consecutive games played in a career (352).
• Josh Miller played for two years as an SCC Fighting Artichoke before playing in the Canadian Football League, and in the NFL for Seattle, Pittsburgh, New England and Tennessee as a punter. He is now a football analyst.
• Ty Parten, former Horizon High and Scottsdale Community College (and U of A
Wildcat) defensive lineman, went on to play for the Cincinnati Bengals (1993-1995) and Kansas City Chiefs (1997-2000).
• Will Tukuafu played for Scottsdale Community College, transferred to the University of Oregon, then was signed by the Seattle Seahawks in 2010, then went to play for the San Francisco 49ers.
After nearly 20 years without a college bowl game, Valley football fans eagerly embraced the Fiesta Bowl when it was first played at ASU’s Sun Devil Stadium in 1971. Scottsdale area businessmen and residents were among the founding board members of the Fiesta Bowl, including George Isbell, Jim Meyer, Jack Stewart and Bill Shover. In that Dec. 27 game, Arizona State beat the Florida State Seminoles (ranked the No. 1 team in 2013). Coincidentally, Danny White, son of player and coach “Whizzer” White, was the ASU quarterback in the inaugural Fiesta Bowl, 20 years after his dad starred in the 1951 Salad Bowl. Danny went on to play for the Dallas Cowboys, and coached the Arizona Rattlers in the Arena Football League, 1992-2004.
As the Fiesta Bowl rose in stature, so did the pre-game hoopla. Mirroring its predecessor Salad Bowl, a parade in downtown Phoenix was added in 1972. The first parade was all balloons; in 1973 the parade took on its preset appearance, with floats, bands and other marching units. Members of the Scottsdale Charros served as the first parade marshals; for many years, Scottsdale sponsored a float in the parade.
The Fiesta Bowl Marathon got its start on Scottsdale Road, and involved hundreds of Scottsdale runners and volunteers. The Scottsdale Charros hosted visiting teams and staff for a Western steak fry at locations such as Rawhide and Pinnacle Peak Patio. One of the Fiesta Bowl teams uses Scottsdale Community College as its practice facility, and at least one of the teams and its alumni group stays in a Scottsdale-area resort (the Scottsdale Princess and Scottsdale Plaza are popular choices). For 16 years, the Fiesta Bowl Art Walk has been held in downtown Scottsdale.
Thousands of Scottsdalians have served as leaders and volunteers in staging annual Fiesta Bowl events. For example, Scottsdale businessman Purd Thomas served as chairman of the Fiesta Bowl Board of Directors during the game’s 25th anniversary year. In 2003, Scottsdale physician Richard Collins received the Fiesta Bowl’s 2002-2003 Frank Snell Lifetime Achievement Award for his years of volunteerism. The Fiesta Bowl moved its headquarters to the Scottsdale Waterfront in 2006, opening the Michael and Ellie Ziegler Fiesta Bowl Center and Museum. The game itself moved from Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe to the then-new University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale in 2007.
The Fiesta Bowl organization also runs a second, post-season bowl game in the Valley—now known as the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. The game began in 1989 as the Copper Bowl, and was played at Arizona Stadium in Tucson. The Fiesta Bowl group assumed responsibility for hosting the game in 1997, rebranded it the Insight.com Bowl as a tribute to its sponsor, and moved it to the then-BankOne Ballpark in 2000. The renamed Insight Bowl moved to Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe in 2006. In 2012, the game was renamed the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in honor of its new lead sponsor. With the game and activities in neighboring Tempe, Scottsdale resorts and businesses benefit from the influx of fans.
The Super Bowl was first played in Arizona on Sunday, Jan. 28, 1996, at Tempe’s Sun Devil Stadium. Numerous events leading up to the game were held in Scottsdale, including the Super Bowl XXX Preview Party (at Scottsdale Fashion Square), and the Arizona Super Bowl XXX Celebrity Golf Gala (at Scottsdale Country Club, where some 180 golfers played for charity). The Pittsburgh Steelers team stayed at the Wyndham (now Doubletree) Paradise Valley Resort on Scottsdale Road, and fans stayed at resorts throughout Scottsdale. Existing January events took on a Super Bowl theme, from the Parada del Sol parade to the Art Walk.
What made life truly interesting was the coinciding of the final round of the Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale with the kickoff of the game in Tempe. The Super Bowl returned to the Valley in 2008, and again, many parties and pre-game activities took place in Scottsdale—although the big game had moved to the University of Phoenix/Cardinals Stadium in Glendale. The Super Bowl returns to the Valley this time next year, playing on Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015 … and Scottsdale will again reap the benefits of football frenzy. See http://azsuperbowl.com for the play-by-play planning details.
Local Football Trivia
Here are some additional Scottsdale football stats for your playbook:
– Scottsdale-area high school football teams have done well in state championship games. The Saguaro Sabercats are the reining 2013 Division III state champions, adding to their state championship honors in 1995, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011. The Chaparral Firebirds were state champs in their division in 1999, 2000, 2002, 2009, 2010 and 2011. The Firebirds and Sabercats both ranked in the top-15 high school football dynasties in Arizona for the 2013-2014 season, according to maxpreps.com. Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale won the state championship in its division in 2007 and 2008; the Horizon Huskies in 1994; the Cactus Shadows Falcons in 2006; and the Coronado Dons in 1976 (all stats according to www.aiaonline.org). Among other local high school records posted by AIA: most consecutive wins, 37, Saguaro Sabercats (2006-2009); and most points in a single game, 113, scored in a 1940 game between Scottsdale High and the Salt River Indian School.
• Saguaro High grad Mike Brown played nine seasons with the Chicago Bears and ended his 10-year NFL career as a Kansas City Chief in 2009.
• Jack Bush, a Paradise Valley High graduate, played nine seasons in the NFL, for Cincinnati, Arizona and San Francisco.
• The Scottsdale Charros hosted the 11th annual American Airlines Golf Classic at McCormick Ranch Golf Course January 27-30, 1977. According to Phoenix Magazine, pro football stars playing in the tourney included New York Jets’ Joe Namath (who called the Classic “the greatest athlete tournament going”); Oakland Raiders’ Fred Biletnikoff; Baltimore Colts’ Bert Jones; Kansas City Chiefs’ Ed Podolak; and Cincinnati Bengals’ Ken Anderson. The tournament returned to Scottsdale in 1978 with an equally impressive list of football golfers.
• The Scottsdale Quarterback Club, established in 1963, is an active sponsor of ASU, local youth athletics and community activities. The club maintains the Scottsdale Sports Hall of Fame display on the Scottsdale Stadium concourse, and provides awards and scholarships to local athletes.
• After the 2007 BCS Championship Game at the University of Phoenix Stadium in 2007, the hosting Fiesta Bowl donated turf from the playing field to Saguaro High School. Thanks to funds from Saguaro High parents and alumni, the Scottsdale Unified School District and the Scottsdale Charros, the costs of delivering and installing the turf, as well as installation of an irrigation system, were covered.
• Several former professional football players have had second careers as Scottsdale-area entrepreneurs. Chicago Bear great Gayle Sayers had a branch of his Crest Computer company in the Scottsdale Airpark in the 1980s/1990s, and was the featured speaker at a Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce annual luncheon. Saguaro High School alum and Dallas Cowboy Dale Hellestrae and his wife operate a cookie store on McDonald Drive in Scottsdale (Dale is also a TV sports analyst and offensive line coach at Scottsdale Christian Academy). Former Cardinals star Kurt Warner is a motivational speaker and sought-after guest at local charitable and civic events.
• Pope John Paul II held mass at the Arizona State University football stadium during his visit to Arizona on Sept. 14, 1987. Many Scottsdale residents attended the historic event.
• At least two Scottsdale-area medical research organizations are working to combat the effects of concussions and other brain injuries among football players. Scottsdale-based CACTIS Foundation (a community-based institution focused on advancing the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of brain injury and disease) has partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Scottsdale for the Conquering Concussions initiative. This innovative program raises awareness about minimal Traumatic Brain Injury (mTBI), a particular concern of youth sports participants. Mayo Clinic Scottsdale began working with Northern Arizona University during the Fall 2013 football season to test the feasibility of using a telemedicine robot—located on the field sidelines—to assess players with possible concussions.
• Anyone remember the Arizona Outlaws? They were a Western Conference Football League team that played its 1985 season at Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe; Frank Kush was head coach.
So savor the action during this month of NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl, and look forward to next season’s excitement on the gridiron … from Pop Warner, to the Super Bowl. May your favorite team win!
Joan Fudala is a Scottsdale-based community historian and author. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.