(Note: This was originally written in August 2014.)
The Arizona Wildcats football program has changed immensely in two short years. New coach, new facilities, new uniforms, new helmets (twice) and a new “WC” hand sign for the players and fans.
The problem with that last one is the hand sign isn’t actually new. Another bunch of Wildcats popularized it first. And those Wildcats may have gotten it from even more Wildcats.
You see it at virtually every UA sporting event now, a hand held up in the shape of an “OK” sign with the O modified into a C. It’s a “WC” sign meant to represent “WildCats.”
The Daily Star’s Zack Rosenblatt did a good job of tracking down the Arizona origin of the gesture and the Daily Wildcat’s archives do confirm it dates back to UA swimmer Simon Burnett over a decade ago.
But the sign remained obscure in Tucson for many years. You never saw any of Mike Stoops’ players use it, from Mike Bell to Nick Foles. It wasn’t until the start of the Rich Rodriguez era and the rise of Ka’Deem Carey that the WC went mainstream.
The WC sign is so established at KSU you can buy it.
To make matters worse, K-State may not even have come up with it first. The state of Texas is the hotbed of hand signals, dating back to the old Southwest Conference. Even little ol’ Abilene Christian University, an FCS school with fewer than 5,000 students, has a sign.
Abilene Christian’s sports teams are called the Wildcats. Their hand sign? Yep, that same WC and they’ve been teaching fans how to do it for years:
That video was posted in 2009 when Ka’Deem was still doing flips at CDO.
(Update: Per a comment from an Abilene Christian alum at the bottom of this post, ACU has been using the sign since at least 2000.)
Now, I am not accusing Simon Burnett of stealing the sign. I believe him when he says he and a teammate came up with the idea independently. But sometimes we don’t gain traction with our ideas until after someone beats us to it. No one’s going to believe Lil Jon stole from me even if I could prove I’ve been saying “Turn down for what” since 2003.
The thing is, even if KSU and ACU somehow did borrow the hand sign from a UA swimmer, even if Burnett was in fact the first human being to discover you could make a W and a C with your fingers, it would still be the wrong sign for Arizona.
The University of Arizona has no logos featuring the letter W. The school’s most famous logo is the block A. Why not flash a two-handed “A” to support Arizona?
There are four universities in the Football Bowl Subdivision that use the Wildcat nickname and a total of 10 schools in all of Division I. Why choose a common gesture when you already have a common nickname?
(Update: Why choose a common, potentially obscene gesture?)
Look, I’m a big believer in school spirit. I say “Bear Down” to everyone from tailgating buddies to the FedEx guy. Personally, I see no need for a hand sign at all. Growing up the only people throwing signs were Crips, Bloods and Sun Devils, and I wasn’t looking to associate with any of them.
But I get it. The students today love hand signs. That’s fine; just don’t use a symbol already popularized by (at least) two other schools. Don’t use a sign that looks like a chicken if you use your left hand. Even the guys from Duck Dynasty know not to use it backwards (see the quote at the end).
There are a lot of Wildcats out there. There is only one Arizona. The UA’s hand sign should be as unique as the school.
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