‘Mr. Sun Devil’ Bill Kajikawa Passes Away

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William (Bill) Kajikawa, who coached Sun Devil football, basketball and baseball, passed away Feb. 15 at age 97. He played football as an undergraduate while earning his bachelor’s degree at what was then, Arizona State Teachers College. (Courtesy of ASU)

William (Bill) “Kaji” Kajikawa, a legendary former football, basketball and baseball player and coach at Arizona State for over five decades passed away at the age of 97 Monday morning, Feb. 15 in Tempe, Ariz.

Born in Oxnard, Kajikawa moved to Phoenix with his family in 1929 and had an outstanding high school athletic career at Phoenix Union High School. He began his relationship with ASU in 1933 when he enrolled in what was then known as the Arizona State Teachers College. He lettered in football and baseball for three years and played basketball for one season. After graduating, he began his coaching career at Arizona State in 1937 by taking over the reigns of the freshman football team. He continued serving in this position under nine different head coaches. He also coached varsity basketball from 1948 to 1957 and was the head baseball coach for seven seasons from 1947 to 1957.

During World War II, Kajikawa took his only hiatus from ASU to serve with distinction in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team.
Former ASU head football coach Frank Kush said, “Bill Kajikawa epitomizes what Sun Devil athletics is all about.”

Known as “Mr. Sun Devil,” Kajikawa was inducted into the Arizona Basketball Hall of Fame in 1968 and the ASU Hall of Distinction in 1982. He is currently up for possible induction into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame. He officially retired from coaching in 1978.
Kajikawa received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education from ASU in 1937 and 1948, respectively, and received an honorary doctor of laws degree from ASU during the 1989 summer commencement ceremony.

Kajikawa, who was a professor emeritus of physical education at ASU, was recognized on April 6, 1995, in a ceremony that named the Sun Devil football practice field The Bill Kajikawa Practice Facility. He was inducted into the Arizona Historymakers.

“I’ve known him for a long time,” said ASU alumnus Dan Ikeda of Phoenix, Ariz. “Our family knew him too. During the war he helped my brother on the farm. He and my older brother were good friends. He was well respected in the community. He did a lot for the school and the community.”

A Tempe resident, Kajikawa also devoted countless hours to community service. For his work, the American Legion selected him in 1976 for the Americanism Award for service to young people. He and his late wife, Margaret, were honored with numerous community appreciation awards, including the Dorothy Mitchell Humanitarian Award from Tri-City Catholic Social Service and the Don Carlos Award from the Tempe Community Council.

Kajikawa is survived by two daughters — Christine Kajikawa Wilkinson, senior vice president and secretary of ASU and Carol O’Connell of Mission Viejo, Calif.

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  1. I read with interest this story about my uncle Bill Kajikawa, please share it with Mickey Culross in reference to his story regarding Dave Yanai as the first Japanese American basketball head coach. My uncle Bill was the head basketball coach and baseball coach for ASU in 1948-1957 and then went on to be the Assistant Football coach. He was so beloved they named the practice field after him. He IS on Wikipedia but also honored on the ASU website. Good read for a JA sports junkie.

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