Arizona–Arizona State football rivalry

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Duel in the Desert
First meetingNovember 30, 1899
Normal School of Arizona, 11–2[1]
Latest meetingNovember 27, 2021
Arizona State, 38–15
Next meetingNovember 25, 2022 (at Arizona Stadium)
StadiumsArizona Stadium, Sun Devil Stadium
TrophyTerritorial Cup
Meetings total95
All-time seriesArizona leads, 49–45–1 (.521)[2]
Trophy seriesTerritorial Cup Series
Largest victoryArizona, 67–0 (1946)
Longest win streakArizona, 11 (1932–1948)
Current win streakArizona State, 5 (2017–present)
Locations of Arizona and Arizona State

The Arizona–Arizona State football rivalry, sometimes known as the Duel in the Desert, is a college football rivalry between the University of Arizona Wildcats (UA) and the Arizona State University Sun Devils (ASU).

One of the longest football rivalries, the winner receives the Territorial Cup, created 123 years ago for the 1899 champion between schools in Arizona and which the NCAA has certified as the oldest rivalry trophy in college football.[3] Although the Territorial Cup did not change hands as a regular part of the competition until 2001, the rivalry between the two schools continued after 1899, a semi-regular event until becoming an annual event, uninterrupted, from 1946 onwards. It is part of the wider Arizona–Arizona State rivalry, which crosses 20 varsity intercollegiate sports.


The rivalry dates to 1899 in the Arizona Territory, when the University of Arizona in Tucson played the Normal School of Arizona of Tempe – which later evolved into Arizona State University[4] – as part of the Arizona Territorial Football League Championship. (Arizona achieved statehood in 1912.)

The championship was a four-way series that also included Phoenix Union High School and Phoenix Indian School. Arizona and the Normal School met on November 30, 1899, for a Thanksgiving Day match at Carrillo Gardens in Tucson.[5] Contemporary newspaper stories indicate that this was the first game for the University squad, while the Normal team was comparatively more experienced and better trained. The event drew 300 enthusiastic fans and was followed by a post-game Thanksgiving celebration for both teams hosted by the University. The "Normals", as they were called, won the game 11–2; as they had previously defeated the other schools, they were declared champions and received the Territorial Cup.[6]

The two teams played each other sporadically for the next decades, and have played almost every year beginning in 1925 (when Arizona State became a four-year college). The rivalry became particularly heated in the late 1950s amid the political contention over turning Arizona State College into an official university, a change opposed by the University of Arizona and many of its alumni. In 1958, the year the measure was to be put to a statewide vote, Arizona State defeated Arizona 47–0. The blowout win was a major point of pride for Arizona State, which became a university later that year.[7]

Another notably heated game came in 1968. The contest was expected to decide which team would go on to the Sun Bowl, but before the game, Arizona coach Darrell Mudra issued an ultimatum to the Sun Bowl committee that his team would not play in the bowl unless they were selected regardless of who won. The committee chose Arizona, who promptly lost to Arizona State 30–7 in what became known as the "Ultimatum Bowl"; Arizona proceeded to lose the 1968 Sun Bowl 34–10 to the Auburn Tigers. The events led to the creation of the Fiesta Bowl as a default bowl for Arizona State should they receive no other bids; it went on to become part of the highly lucrative Bowl Championship Series[7] and is now part of the College Football Playoff system.

The rivalry series has been known for having decades being dominated by each team, with ASU having the advantage during the 1960s and 1970s, and UA dominating the early years, as well as the 1980s and 1990s.

In the modern era of the game, it has often been played on the day after Thanksgiving. It has most recently been scheduled for the Saturday after Thanksgiving to accommodate network television coverage. Starting with the 2009–2010 school year, both schools created a “Territorial Cup Series” that encompasses each of the 20 varsity intercollegiate sports that Arizona and Arizona State compete head to head in, apparently due to the schools believing that the rivalry happens in all sports and not only in football.[8] Each sport is worth 1 point in the year-long competition. While the series has yet to have an official sponsor like other rivalry series between two universities, both UA and ASU have tracked down and promoted the series each season. The school that records the most points during the school year wins a trophy that is named after the Territorial Cup football trophy. If both schools finished tied, the winner from the previous year retains the trophy. As of the 2020–21 season, UA leads the series and is currently in possession of the trophy.[9] [10] [11][12]

Rivalry name[edit]

The rivalry has had several nicknames, including the “Battle of Arizona”, the “Grand Canyon Rivalry” (not to be confused with the rivalry between Northern Arizona and Southern Utah that shares the same name), “Desert Wars” (due to Arizona being known for having a desert climate), the “Cactus War” (named after Arizona's prominent feature, the saguaro cactus), and the “Phoenix–Tucson rivalry” (due to both schools being located in state's two largest metropolitan areas, with ASU in Tempe, Phoenix's east suburb, and UA located within the Tucson city limits), with the most famous nickname for the rivalry being the “Duel in the Desert” (or the “Desert Duel”), since both schools wanted to battle for pride and to be the best team in the state, not only in football, but in all sports.[13]

Territorial Cup[edit]

In 1899, and continuously since 2001, each year's winner receives the Territorial Cup, a traveling trophy. The trophy was originally used in 1899 for the series that involved the teams' first ever meeting. As the Normal School won all three of its games, it was declared champion and awarded the trophy.[14] The cup's name refers to the fact that Arizona was a U.S. territory at the time; it, along with New Mexico, became a state in 1912.

After the tournament the trophy's whereabouts were unknown until 1980 when it was rediscovered in the basement of a church adjacent to Arizona State's campus. The cup was put on display in the Alumni Association headquarters and then the University Archives.[15] It was later authenticated as the original cup by the NCAA, making it the oldest rivalry game trophy in college football.[3]

In 2000, Arizona contacted Arizona State about displaying the cup on their campus. The following year, then ASU President Lattie Coor ordered that the Territorial Cup be shared as a traveling trophy, to be displayed by each year's winner. Coor and then UA President Peter Likins signed a protocol governing the cup's use and care. Each year the tradition is celebrated at a pre-game reception for boosters. A replica version was also made and is the trophy presented to the winner after the game.[15][16]

The cup is silver plate over Britannia base metal and was manufactured by Reed & Barton of Taunton, Massachusetts. It was a standard style priced at $20 ($462.05 in 2010 dollars) in Reed and Barton's 1910 catalog. The inscription reads "Arizona Football League Championship 1899 Normal".[16]

Series history[edit]

Arizona State University was previously known as the Normal School of Arizona (1899–1901), Tempe Normal School (1901–1925), Tempe State Teacher's College (1925–1928), Arizona State Teacher's College (1928–1945), and Arizona State College (1945–1958).[4][17] Arizona State did not come under the control and patronage of the state's Board of Regents until 1945 and the teams did not play each other every year until 1946.

In the early part of the rivalry series, the games were played in Tucson due to the fact that ASU's home stadium held very few fans. In 1931, ASU hosted the game for the first time. Arizona dominated the early portion of the series, winning 20 of the first 22 meetings, by having more physical and better-trained players than ASU. The Sun Devils had a reign of dominance from 1949 to 1981, winning 24 of 29, including a 13–2 stretch from 1965 to 1979, under the leadership of ASU's legendary coach Frank Kush. The Wildcats got the best of ASU from 1982 to 1998, going 13–3–1, under the guidance of coaches Larry Smith and Dick Tomey and a dominant defensive unit that was one of the nation's best in the early 1990s. Since 1999, Arizona State currently has had the edge, winning 16 of the last 23, including a 70–7 victory over the Wildcats in 2020.

Starting in 2018, the rivalry matched ASU Head Coach Herm Edwards against Arizona Head Coach Kevin Sumlin. Coach Edwards got the better of Coach Sumlin in their inaugural game, with ASU mounting the biggest comeback in Territorial Cup history,[18] coming from 19 points behind in the 4th quarter for a 41–40 win in Tucson on November 24, 2018. In the latest installment of the Territorial Cup, Coach Edwards improved to 4–0 in the series with a 38–15 win in Tempe on November 27, 2021.

Game results[edit]

Arizona victoriesArizona State victoriesTie games
1 1899 Tucson Normal School 11–2
2 1902 Tucson Arizona 12–0
3 1914 Tucson Arizona 34–0
4 1915 Tucson Arizona 7–0
5 1919 Tucson Arizona 59–0
6 1925 Tucson Arizona 13–3
7 1926 Tucson Arizona 35–0
8 1928 Tucson Arizona 39–0
9 1929 Tucson Arizona 26–0
10 1930 Tucson Arizona 6–0
11 1931 Tempe Arizona State 19–6
12 1932 Tucson Arizona 20–6
13 1933 Tempe Arizona 26–7
14 1934 Tucson Arizona 32–6
15 1935 Tucson Arizona 26–0
16 1936 Tempe Arizona 18–0
17 1937 Tucson Arizona 20–6
18 1941 Tempe Arizona 20–7
19 1942 Tempe Arizona 23–0
20 1946 Tucson Arizona 67–0
21 1947 Tempe Arizona 26–13
22 1948 Tucson Arizona 33–21
23 1949 Tempe Arizona State 34–7
24 1950 Tucson Arizona State 47–13
25 1951 Tempe Arizona State 61–14
26 1952 Tucson Arizona State 20–18
27 1953 Tempe Arizona 35–0
28 1954 Tucson Arizona 54–14
29 1955 Tempe Arizona 7–6
30 1956 Tucson Arizona State 20–0
31 1957 Tempe #15 Arizona State 47–7
32 1958 Tucson Arizona State 47–0
33 1959 Tempe Arizona State 15–9
34 1960 Tucson Arizona 35–7
35 1961 Tempe Arizona 22–13
36 1962 Tucson Arizona 20–17
37 1963 Tempe Arizona State 35–6
38 1964 Tucson Arizona 30–6
39 1965 Tempe Arizona State 14–6
40 1966 Tucson Arizona State 20–17
41 1967 Tempe Arizona State 47–7
42 1968 Tucson #20 Arizona State 30–7
43 1969 Tempe Arizona State 38–24
44 1970 Tucson # 9 Arizona State 10–6
45 1971 Tempe # 9 Arizona State 31–0
46 1972 Tucson #18 Arizona State 38–21
47 1973 Tempe #13 Arizona State 55–19
48 1974 Tucson Arizona 10–0
49 1975 Tempe #8 Arizona State 24–21
50 1976 Tucson Arizona State 27–10
51 1977 Tempe #19 Arizona State 23–7
52 1978 Tucson Arizona State 18–17
53 1979 Tempe Arizona 27–24
54 1980 Tucson Arizona State 44–7
55 1981 Tempe #18 Arizona State 24–13
56 1982 Tucson Arizona 28–18
57 1983 Tempe Arizona 17–15
58 1984 Tucson Arizona 16–10
59 1985 Tempe Arizona 16–13
60 1986 Tucson #14 Arizona 34–17
61 1987 Tempe Tie24–24
62 1988 Tucson Arizona 28–18
63 1989 Tempe Arizona 28–10
64 1990 Tucson Arizona 21–17
65 1991 Tempe Arizona State 37–14
66 1992 Tucson Arizona State 7–6
67 1993 Tempe #19 Arizona 34–20
68 1994 Tucson #16 Arizona 28–27
69 1995 Tempe Arizona 31–28
70 1996 Tucson #4 Arizona State 56–14
71 1997 Tempe Arizona 28–16
72 1998 Tucson #8 Arizona 50–42
73 1999 Tempe Arizona State 42–27
74 2000 Tucson Arizona State 30–17
75 2001 Tempe Arizona 34–21
76 2002 Tucson Arizona State 34–20
77 2003 Tempe Arizona State 28–7
78 2004 Tucson Arizona 34–27
79 2005 Tempe Arizona State 23–20
80 2006 Tucson Arizona State 28–14
81 2007 Tempe #13 Arizona State 20–17
82 2008 Tucson Arizona 31–10
83 2009 Tempe Arizona 20–17
84 2010 Tucson Arizona State 30–292OT
85 2011 Tempe Arizona 31–27
86 2012 Tucson Arizona State 41–34
87 2013 Tempe #13 Arizona State 58–21
88 2014 Tucson #12 Arizona 42–35
89 2015 Tempe Arizona State 52–37
90 2016 Tucson Arizona 56–35
91 2017 Tempe Arizona State 42–30
92 2018 Tucson Arizona State 41–40
93 2019 Tempe Arizona State 24–14
94 2020 Tucson Arizona State 70–7
95 2021 Tempe Arizona State 38–15
96 2022 Tucson
Series: Arizona leads 49–45–1[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ASU-UA Football Rivalry - Tempe, Arizona". Archived from the original on 2010-09-30. Retrieved 2011-11-02., .
  2. ^ a b "Winsipedia – Arizona Wildcats vs. Arizona State Sun Devils football series history". Winsipedia.
  3. ^ a b "History of the Territorial Rivalry Trophy between Arizona and Arizona State". Yahoo News. October 29, 2010. Retrieved 11 January 2012.
  4. ^ a b "Tempe Normal School Records, 1885-1930 MSS-149". Arizona Archives Online. 2014. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  5. ^ "A way-too-early, game-by-game look at Arizona's 2019 football season". Arizona Daily Star. 4 December 2018.
  6. ^ "History" Archived 2010-02-17 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  7. ^ a b Rappoport, Ken; Wilner, Barry (2007). Football Feuds: The Greatest College Football Rivalries. Globe Pequot. pp. 183–185. ISBN 978-1599210148. Retrieved November 12, 2013.
  8. ^ "UA, ASU to create year-long rivalry competition series". The Arizona Republic. August 15, 2009.
  9. ^ "UA declared winner of Territorial Cup Series in short season". Arizona Daily Star. May 25, 2020.
  10. ^ Metcalfe, Jeff. "ASU clinches fourth consecutive Territorial Cup Series undisputed title". The Arizona Republic.
  11. ^ "Wildcat Wednesday – Heeke Announced As New Athletic Director". University of Arizona Athletics.
  12. ^ "Sun Devils Claim Fourth Straight Territorial Cup Series Title".
  13. ^ "The origin of the UA–ASU rivalry". The Arizona Republic. November 23, 1999.
  14. ^ [1], Archived 2012-04-19 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ a b "Out of Bounds: History of the Territorial Cup". Archived from the original on 2013-12-10. Retrieved 2013-12-03.
  16. ^ a b "State Farm Territorial Cup Series". Archived from the original on 2012-03-05. Retrieved 2011-11-02., Archived 2012-03-05 at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ "The New ASU Story: Academic Programs". Arizona State University. 2001. Retrieved May 27, 2014.
  18. ^ "ASU's comeback stuns Wildcats". November 24, 2018. Retrieved November 26, 2018.