The long history of the Territorial Cup football rivalry between ASU and UA will finally be chronicled under one book.
“Territorial: The History of the Duel in the Desert,” written by former Arizona Daily Wildcat sports writer and editor Shane Dale, was released on Tuesday on Dale’s createspace.com page and will be available on Amazon by the end of the week. The book highlights major events from the 114-year-old rivalry and features anecdotes from players, coaches and journalists from both schools.
The State Press spoke with Dale about his challenges about maintaining fairness in “Territorial,” his experiences from gathering information and the overall landscape of the Territorial Cup rivalry.
The State Press: Tell me about yourself. You grew up as an ASU fan but graduated from UA. How did that work out?
SD: I was one of those rare people that liked both schools. I didn’t really have an allegiance to either. I grew up liking all of the Arizona teams. But when they played each other since I lived in Chandler for most of my life, I could root for ASU because that was the team I was more familiar with then. (I went to UA) for superficial reasons, because I had more friends going to UA and wanted to get a little farther away from home.
SP: Obviously, a key feature that authors must have while writing a book like “Territorial” is to be fair and unbiased. How have you maintained that throughout the book?
SD: Put it this way — I wanted to sell as many copies in Tempe as I did in Tucson. I have the same approach as Tim Healey, the voice of ASU for a long time, that obviously he’s partisan as an ASU guy, but as a journalist he has to step back and appreciate the rivalry for what it is, appreciate the history, the players and the coaches from both schools that made it great. Jay Dobyns, a wide receiver for UA in the ’80s said, “I’m as pro-UA as you can get, but if you don’t have respect for what Frank Kush did for that program, something’s wrong with you.” I wanted to hear that kind of stuff for the book.
It wasn’t difficult. I got a lot of respect from both schools. I don’t think you have to like both schools, you just have to have that respect and appreciation for both schools, which I do. I understand there’s a contingency of people who will say, “I can’t buy something a UA guy wrote,” but I’m hoping the opposite will happen and people will perceive me as unbiased.
SP: What was the most interesting thing you’ve learned about the rivalry?
SD: The history behind it that makes it so personal. In the ’50s, when Arizona State College was trying to become Arizona State University, which was inevitable because Phoenix was growing by thousands, UA didn’t want it. UA was the only university in the state for decades and they wanted to keep it that way, and what happened is that in 1958 there was a proposition on the ballot, Proposition 200, that would change ASC’s name to ASU. The day of their first game at Sun Devil Stadium, there were UA fans who broke into the stadium and burned into the grass “No on 200.” Based on the interviews I did, that really started making it a personal rivalry. Proposition 200 passed easily and ASU went to Tucson that year and blew out UA 47-0. There were some other things that came up as well, but that really set the nastiness of the rivalry since then.
SP: Have you researched other rivalries around the nation, and how does the Territorial Cup compare to the most notable ones?
SD: The Territorial Cup is unique because it is the oldest existing rivalry trophy in the country, but also I can’t imagine another trophy that has gone missing for 80 years. It was actually given to Tempe Normal College for going 3-0 in the first ever Arizona Territorial Football League. Sooner after it gone missing, it was found in a church basement in the early 80s, and it wasn’t given to the winner until 2001. I think that makes that trophy unique because not only is it the oldest one in the country, but it had an interesting destination as far as getting it there. A lot of fans don’t realize it’s actually relatively new to giving it to the winner of the football games, and it hadn’t happened for very long.
SP: Describe the animosity between the two schools, not just from the fan bases but also players and coaches. Based on what you’ve seen and heard, would you say there’s mutual respect in the rivalry, or is it driven by absolute hatred of one another?
SD: I think there’s respect among the coaches and among most players. I think the real hated is mostly among the fans and the alumni of both schools. It comes from what I call a “mutual condescension.” UA looks down at ASU because UA has been a university for a lot longer. They say ASU as a little brother and sees them inferior academically. On the flip side, I think ASU fans look at the city of Tucson. I really think there’s condescension on both sides, to the point where if ASU suffered a loss to UA or vice-versa, they feel personally offended by it. I don’t know if you get that in rivalry. I think that’s one of the things that’s unique to this rivalry.
SP: Which team will have the better season, and who wins the Territorial Cup game in November?
SD: I’ll probably say like most other people, I think ASU will have a better year. They have a lot more guys returning, especially Will Sutton and Taylor Kelly coming back. (UA coach) Rich Rodriguez was asked a question on what position was he most concerned about and he said, “Everywhere.” UA has an easier schedule. They’ll win five or six games, maybe more.
As far as the November game, the road team has won the last four games, but I think that streak will end this year. Not because ASU has the better team, but I really think when it comes to this rivalry, a lot of people will say it more about the desire than the talent of the team. From a lot of information I’ve gathered (ASU coach) Todd Graham has embraced this rivalry a little bit more than Rich Rodriguez has. For that reason mainly more so than that ASU is the better team, as of right now I like ASU’s chances of ending that road streak this year.
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