Territorial Cup Series: More than just football

The Territorial Series Cup is displayed on the field at UA's football stadium. The cup currently resides on UA's campus, in the Jim Click Hall of Champions. (Photo by Dominic Valente) The Territorial Series Cup is displayed on the field at UA's football stadium. The cup currently resides on UA's campus, in the Jim Click Hall of Champions. (Photo by Dominic Valente)

On display in the ASU Sports Hall of Fame sits the symbol of Arizona collegiate football dominance: the Territorial Cup. On display in UA's Jim Click Hall of Champions, sits the symbol of Arizona collegiate athletic dominance: the lesser-known Territorial Cup Series Trophy.

Most fans hold the football game in the highest regard among the sports, but officials from the schools do not, said Steven Hank, ASU associate athletic director for revenue, who also oversees the Territorial Cup Series.

“The fans and the media do tend to put a lot of focus on the football game," he said. "But it is a series across every single sport, and every single sport counts and every single sport matters.”

UA athletic director Greg Byrne said he treasures and covets both trophies.

“I think they (both trophies) have their own unique values,” he said. “I’d be dishonest if I didn’t say we want them both.”

The Rules

The Territorial Cup Series includes all NCAA Division I sports in which both schools partake. UA won the first three years of the Series' existence 12.5-5.5, 11.5-6.5, 12.5-5.5, respectively. It then added a fourth consecutive victory last season in the last inning of the last baseball game of the last sport on the athletic schedule.

The rules that govern the Series are posted on territorialcupseries.com and were agreed to by both schools, according to UA officials.

To paraphrase the rules from the website:

  • If the schools face each other once (for example, football), the winner of that game receives the point.
  • If the schools face each other more than once (for example, basketball, soccer, baseball), whichever school wins the season series receives the point. If the schools split the meetings, they are each awarded a half point.
  • If the schools do not face each other directly, but participate in the same championships (for example, swim and dive in the Pac-12 Championship), whichever school finishes higher in the standings receives the point.
  • If the schools finish tied in points, whichever school finishes higher in the Directors’ Cup standings receives the point. If the schools are still tied, the winner of the football game wins the Series.
The 18 sports included in the Territorial Cup Series are football, baseball, softball, gymnastics, women’s soccer, women’s volleyball, women’s tennis, men and women’s cross-country, men and women’s basketball, men and women’s swim and dive, men and women’s golf, men and women’s outdoor track and field and women’s indoor track and field.

The Dispute

Last season, UA won the Territorial Cup Series 9.5-8.5, but there is a dispute between the two schools regarding the result.

Men’s indoor track and field is not included in the Series, despite the fact that both schools compete in it.

UA athletic officials said they believe that its exclusion is correct, while ASU officials believe that it should be included.

Had men’s indoor track and field been included, ASU would have won that point, bringing the Series to a 9.5-9.5 tie.

ASU finished 18th in the Directors’ Cup while UA finished 23rd, according to directorscup.com. Because this is the tiebreaker, ASU would have won the Series for the first time.

Hank said he disagrees with UA’s exclusion of the sport.

“We believe that if they compete on the field of play in that sport, that it should be included in the overall Series,” Hank said. “In moving forward, what I’ve been told is that men’s (indoor) track will be included.”

Hank said men's indoor track and field could be included as soon as this season.

However, it is still unclear if and when the dispute over the sport will be settled, or if it will be included this season.

Hank went on to say that the issue is “in the way that the UA declares whether (men's indoor track and field is) a sport.”

UA officials said they believe it should not be counted, because men’s indoor track and field is not an official UA sport. Despite this, UA still collects Directors’ Cup points from the sport and sends athletes to national and regional competitions.

Byrne said that an instance like this is “very common.”

“A lot of schools ... (do) the same thing,” Byrne said.

Byrne released an email statement to clarify UA’s stance on the debate between the schools as well as future inclusion of men’s indoor track and field.

“While we have been fortunate to win the Territorial Cup Series Trophy for the last four years, we have followed the guidelines that both schools agreed to when the series was started. We are willing to have a conversation about updating the rules, but we were unwilling to change the rules midyear, which is what was suggested without any discussion with us.”

ASU athletic director Steve Patterson said in an email that ASU looks forward to another "great series this year and hope(s) fans from both sides fill the venues when the teams are competing."

"The series has really grown and will continue to grow with so much University pride at stake. We look forward to the future of the series in all the sports and the continued promotion of the series with local businesses, organizations and media,” he said in the email.

The Relevance

Byrne said that the rivalry games between ASU and UA are the most important games on the athletic calendar.

“It’s one of our goals for the year in all of our sports,” he said. “It’s win the Territorial Cup (in) each individual sport, compete for a Pac-12 championship in each of our individual sports, beat them head-to-head.”

Hank agreed.

“There is no more important game on our schedule than when we play the University of Arizona,” he said.

While both administrations are passionate about the Series, the fans are most responsible for the fuel to the rivalry fire, according to Shane Dale, author of “Territorial: The History of the Duel in the Desert.”

Dale said fans of both schools share a “mutual condescension” toward one another. He was unable to decide which school’s fan base shows more animosity toward the other and said it is “pretty darn equal. ... Fans are personally offended when they lose.

“On the UA side ... it’s like an indignity to have to lose to ASU,” Dale said.

He said Wildcat fans often ask themselves, “How could we lose to those neanderthals up in the Phoenix area?"

Dale said many Sun Devil fans counter with, “How could we lose to those dumb-sses from Tucson?"

The Future

In its first three years, State Farm sponsored the Series.

Before last season, State Farm pulled its sponsorship in a coincidental move in order to “direct its sponsorship money elsewhere,” Hank said. He said the timing has nothing to do with last year’s controversy.

Dale said he believes that last year’s finish, as well as the dispute, could entice a new sponsor who could aid in promotion of the Series.

“(If) any potential sponsor was looking through the Twitter feed of ASU and UA people during (the last baseball) game, they would realize just how intense it is,” Dale said.

Dale even gave a suggestion to any potential sponsors.

“I think there’s an opportunity for a sponsor here to take what happened last year,” he said. “Put together a highlight video showing exactly what happened and how close it was and the controversy around it this year and say, ‘What’s going to happen next year?’”

The 2013-14 Territorial Cup Series begins on Sept. 24, when ASU volleyball hosts UA.It will continue until the final baseball game on April 27 in Tucson.

Dale said he is excited for this year’s series and that it adds intrigue when both schools field competitive teams.

I think there’s an underestimation in terms of the intensity in this rivalry," Dale said. "Both teams being good is good for the rivalry and good for both schools ... and not just in football.”


Reach the reporter at justin.emerson@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @J15Emerson

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