By JAMES KELLEY
Pima Community College student newspapers and Aztec sports both had humble and confusing beginnings.
The college held its first classes in 1969 and officially opened in 1970, but the start of the Aztec Press and Pima sports are a bit more hazy.
A student newspaper named Graffiti Press started in 1970. That was the first of six names before the publication became Aztec Press in 1981.
A “Department of Mass Communications” launched a publication called Campus News in 1973. The Library of Congress believes that newspaper evolved into the Aztec Press after a few name changes, but is also unsure when publication of the Graffiti Press ceased.
In the sports arena, Pima’s first athletes played on club teams.
A judo martial arts team started in 1970, and was the first Pima team to advance to Nationals. It even hosted Nationals in 1974, where it finished second.
In 1971, teams included “girls’” volleyball, men’s softball (Pima Suns) and baseball (Pima Giants.) Softball and baseball played in a city league, while against teams like Frontier Liquor and the Jewish Community Center.
Intercollegiate sports officially began in 1973, when Pima launched men’s cross country, wrestling, men’s basketball, men’s track and baseball teams.
The athletic department celebrated the 25th anniversary of Pima sports in 1995, but now considers 1973 its launch year.
A 1973 fencing team won Pima’s first trophy.
In 1974, when only men played on the golf team, coach Bill Johnson was 20 years old. He coached one player who was 42 and another who was 30 years old.
The first successful team sport was “girls’” basketball, which in 1975 notched Pima’s first back-to-back winning seasons.
During the 1970s, the Campus News played a significant role with Pima’s logos.
In a Sept. 28, 1973 story, the CN explained Pima’s logo, designed by Gill Kenny, coordinator of Communigraphics and Reprographics Services. The logo is a “stylized ‘P’” that is repeated in a circle and is used today.
In 1975, the Campus News and the athletic department sponsored a “Draw the Aztec” contest after the sports editor and Pima’s first athletic director, Larry Toledo, decided the college needed an Aztec logo to go with the standard circle “P” logo.
The contest offered more than $200 in prizes, including a $100 scholarship.
In May 1975, judges chose a logo by design major Bob Einfrank. The multi-Aztec head was put on sports uniforms and used as the newspaper’s logo.
The athletic department drew criticism in the 2000s when it began limiting recruitment to in-state athletes, but the philosophy was not new. Pima originally recruited only Tucson athletes, though it welcomed out-of-state athletes who decided on their own to enroll.
Pima’s most recent sport – football – was almost one of the first. In the mid-1970s, it seemed likely that football would be added, but the program stalled when voters rejected a $9.5 million bond by an almost 2-1 margin. Football was eventually added in 2001.
The Campus News alternately supported and trashed the potential football team.
A 1974 column said Pima students should follow Scottsdale Community College’s lead. At Scottsdale, students voted against a football team. When the school added one anyway, students voted to name the team the “Fighting Artichokes” and make pink their color.
In the early 1970s, PCC teams didn’t have an on-campus gym or home fields. The school did have cheerleaders and song leaders, and composers were working on a fight song. Two “authentic” Aztec mascots were also in the works.
Men’s basketball got off to a grand start in 1973, hosting the International Friendship Festival Tournament that opened on (tape delayed) TV. The athletic director, Toledo, gave 1,000 free tickets to students.
The start of Aztec sports coincided with the 1972 adoption of Title IX, the federal legislation that forbids schools to discriminate on the basis of gender.
Gradually, Pima’s female sports teams moved from club to varsity status and changed their names from “girls’” to “women’s.”
Progress wasn’t immediate. In 1974, Pima’s first women’s softball team had just 12 players. Stories didn’t indicate how many outfielders the team used.
In a 1974 story, the Campus News revealed that both basketball teams shared locker rooms. The men dressed while the females were playing their second half, and the women changed during the guys’ game.
The Arizona Community College Athletic Conference voted in 1975 to add women’s sports.
Only a few Pima teams (cross country, volleyball and baseball) currently compete against four-year schools. In the 1970s, however, the Aztecs regularly played university club teams.
If it had added football, Pima would have played junior varsity teams from the University of Arizona and Arizona State University.
The men’s basketball team did play against JV teams, and the Campus News couldn’t resist an occasionally snarky comment. When Pima beat UA’s JV team in 1975, a cutline said the Aztecs beat the “Wildkittens” 95-71.
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Aztec Press History
Graffiti Press: 1970-1973
Campus News: 1973-1977
The Downtowner: 1975-1981
Aztec Campus News: 1977-1978
Aztec News: 1978-1981
Aztec Press (merger of Downtowner and Aztec News): 1981-1986
Aztec Press: 1987-