This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

Arizona State University - from Normals to Bulldogs to Sun Devils


A few years ago, about the time I started posting old photos of Phoenix on a Google+ page, a new logo was designed for my school, Arizona State University, which is a pitchfork, and is a simplification of the Sun Devil "Sparky" mascot that was adopted in 1948, and which had been created by former Disney animator Berk Anthony. So all of this got me wondering how old-timers reacted to the changes in their school over the years. And since I'm not really interested in history, but I am interested in time-traveling, I'm trying to go back and see it from the point of view of the people who were there at the time. And believe me, it gets really weird, starting with the original name of the school, the Tempe Normal School.

A Normal School is what a school that taught teachers was called, that is, a teaching school (which taught teaching "norms"). And since that was the original name of ASU, the teams, naturally enough, were called the Normals. Whether they had a mascot or not seems to be open to debate, but that's an owl there on the steps next to the football players posing with the Territorial Cup in the photo above from 1899. So, if you're wondering why the football team there on the steps of Old Main has Ns on their jerseys, it's because they were the Normals.

1911 ad for the Tempe Normal School


The Tempe Normal School Baseball team in 1907

Bob Smith in 1929

When the name of the school changed to the Tempe Teacher's College, a new name for the team was needed. And really, this was the first time that the mascot and the team names were the same - Bulldogs. So, if you're an alumnus from 1922 to 1946, you are a Bulldog. Of course, if you went to the school between 1885 and 1922, since you were a Normal, you were probably pretty outraged at the change. See what I mean?

Animator Berk Antony and Sparky the Sun Devil

I'm still doing more research on whatever possessed a successful school to start using a devil as a mascot. It's been around so long now that most people never give it a second thought, but when it was a new idea I can't help but think that there were a few people who questioned the wisdom of using an image of Satan for a school? Of course, the cheerful cartoon of "Sparky" helped people get used to the idea, I'm sure.

My feeling about all of this is that people are always proud of their school, and supporters of tradition. I don't know anyone personally who is old enough to have been a Bulldog, or a Normal, but they're as much of a part of the history of ASU as Sun Devils (and that's me). From my point of view, it's all Arizona State University, and Sun Devils, but that's only because I'm too young to know it before that.


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