Aug 29, 2022 - Sports

ASU, UofA have a rivalry older than Arizona itself

A gloved hand holding up a shiny trophy cup.

The storied Territorial Cup. Photo: Darryl Webb/Associated Press

The ASU-UofA rivalry technically began in 1899, before Arizona was a state, when the schools faced each other in football for the first time.

  • ASU, then Territorial Normal School, beat UofA 11-2 and won the "Territorial Cup."
  • The shiny silver trophy went missing after that first game and wasn't discovered until 1980 in a church basement near ASU.
  • The Territorial Cup is the oldest rivalry trophy in college football.

Yes, but: Our rivalry didn't reach the bitter, angry, deface-each-other's-property status of today until 1958.

  • Like most things in our state, politics is to blame.

What happened: Until 1958, UofA was the only university in Arizona — and its alumni, which held most power positions in the state, wanted it to stay that way.

  • ASU was just the measly Arizona State College at that time. And legislative efforts to elevate the school to a university failed repeatedly at the hands of the Wildcat faithful.

But then: ASC president Grady Gammage pushed for a citizen's initiative to change the name, leaving it in the hands of voters to decide on the school's moniker.

  • ASC students and alumni collected more than double the needed signatures to get Proposition 200 on the ballot.
  • Opponents of the initiative were similarly intense, breaking into newly completed Sun Devil Stadium before its opening game and burning "NO 200" into the field.

In the end: The initiative passed by a 2-1 margin and the Tempe school got to sub its "C" for a "U."

The intrigue: It's been more than 60 years since the heated name-change battle, but the hostility seems to be baked into our bones.

  • This season will be the 97th football meet up between the two schools. UofA leads the series 49-46-1.
  • Though, if you count only games since ASU's name change, ASU leads 36-26-1.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Phoenix.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Phoenix stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Phoenix.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more