Out of Bounds: History of the Territorial Cup
You could have bought the Territorial Cup for $20. Rest assured this was in 1910 in a metal manufacturing company named Reed and Barton catalog. The Territorial Cup is not just any old trophy and is certainly now a priceless artifact. It’s disappeared, it’s been fought over, and it’s the most highly sought after prize between ASU and the University of Arizona.
ASU (then called the Arizona Territorial Normal School) began a football team in 1896. The school itself was in fact hardly a school at all. One hundred and nineteen was the total enrollment and only teaching certificates were handed out, not degrees.
The team played no competitive games and the women on campus sowed pads into the pants of the players. In 1897 they played one game and in 1899 played three games in the “Arizona Territorial Football League” defeating Phoenix Union High School and the Phoenix Indian School before playing against the University of Arizona in what would be considered the first game for the Territorial Cup on Thanksgiving Day November 30th, 1899 in front of three hundred people at Carillo Gardens Field in Tucson.
The rivalry wasn’t always as hostile as it was today. In fact, the Normals as they were called took the train to Tucson. When they arrived, the U of A players took them on a campus tour and after the Normal School won the game by a score of 11-2, they were treated to a Thanksgiving feast by the U of A players and fans.
A picture exists of that 1899 team on the steps of Old Main on the Tempe Campus. However, this is the only record of the Cup’s existence until 1980 when it was discovered in a church basement close to Tempe. It spent some time in the Alumni Association headquarters before being placed in University Archives.
In 2000, ASU archivist Rob Spindler received a call from U of A. They said they were interested in displaying the cup in their new university hall of fame in the McKale Center. Spindler was of course reluctant and so a meeting was called between ASU president Lattie Coor and U of A president Peter Likins. At this meeting, a “presidential protocol” was signed for the use of the cup, where it would be placed, and who would have responsibility for the cup at each university. No, Will Sutton was not holding up a 103-year-old trophy this past November. Among the other agreements was that a replica of the cup would be made for celebrations and postgame presentations. The real cup lies in the U of A hall of fame in the McKale Center when U of A wins the cup while ASU puts it in the Piper Creative Writing Center on the fourth floor of Hayden Library when it has possession.
There is even a fight over who leads the Territorial Cup series overall in football. The overall series record is 47-38-1. ASU leads U of A 30-24 when the university’s formal name became “Arizona State” in 1958. Since both teams moved from the Western to the PAC-12 conference U of A leads 19-15-1. The State Farm Territorial Cup Series was developed in 2009 to include all sports between ASU and U of A, not just football. Teams acquire points for their University by beating the other team in their respective sport. U of A has won this series all three years of its existence.
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