(I am in the process of seeking permission from Richard Jenkins Collection to use his photo of the painted desert)


by: Doug Seagrave/Excel H Sports West

Citizens of the state of Arizona understand the heated nature of the rivalry between Arizona State University in Tempe and the University of Arizona in Tucson. The intra-state matchup is the most important contest, regardless of the sport, each year. The winner of the annual football game gets to hoist the oldest intercollegiate rivalry trophy in the United States, The Territorial Cup. (The second oldest rivalry trophy game is Michigan vs. Minnesota for the Little Brown Jug dating back to 1909).

The rivalry, and The Cup, date back to the days of the Arizona Territory and was first awarded on Thanksgiving Day 1899 when the Tempe Normal School, a small teachers college, scored an 11-2 victory over U of A at Tucson’s Carillo Gardens Field. For historical perspective, that was only 18 years after the Earps took care of the Clantons in Tombstone. Arizona did not become a U.S. state until 1912.

Tempe Normal School later became Arizona State College. The Phoenix metro area was growing rapidly in the 1950’s and Arizona State College was pushing to become Arizona State University. Many at The University of Arizona, which was the only University in the state, opposed the transition. The Proposition 200 ballot initiative in 1958 resulted in the name change to Arizona State University and the rivalry intensified.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the rivalry is the 80-year disappearance of the trophy soon after the 1st presentation in 1899. The Territorial Cup Trophy was found in the early 1980’s in the basement of a church that was being demolished near ASU. Actual presentations of the trophy began again in 2001.

The Territorial Cup is at stake for the 96th time on Friday at Arizona Stadium in Tucson. U of A leads the series 49-45-1. However, ASU has won 5 straight games, including last year’s 38-15 victory at Sun Devil Stadium.


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