After Hour: ASU Archivist speaks about the history of the Arizona State–Arizona rivalry

ASU Archivist Robert Spindler discusses the history of one of the longest rivalries in college sports

On Thursday, Feb. 15, Arizona Wildcats basketball will be in Tempe to face the Sun Devils. So, it seems like an appropriate time to talk about the Arizona–Arizona State rivalry. 

ASU Archivist Robert Spindler says the rivalry began back in 1899 when ASU (then called the Normal School of Arizona) faced off against the University of Arizona in football. 

ASU won the game, but there was not a sense of a rivalry brewing yet, according to Spindler.

“The Normal School football players took the train to Tucson, and the university players met them at the train station and gave them a tour of their brand new dormitories before the game," Spindler said of the collegial atmosphere at the first-ever Territorial Cup.

It was not until a few decades later that the first signs of animosity appeared between the schools. 

Spindler said the 1946 emergence of the modern-day Arizona Board of Regents began to cause friction. For the first time ever, ASU and U of A had to share governance organizations.

"They were going to have to fight harder for their share of the pie as far as resources go," Spindler said. 

This was an uphill battle for ASU, as Tucson was the only official university in the state of Arizona, and it was a much bigger school.

The 30s and 40s also saw U of A consistently beating ASU in football.

ASU became an official university in 1958, and Spindler said this was a big turning point in the rivalry.

"Now they were essentially on an equal footing with the University of Arizona in trying to build their institutions, build research capacity and become a true university," Spindler said.

Frank Kush also arrived at ASU in 1958. The 1958 football matchup between the two schools resulted in a 47-0 blowout win for ASU.

While the Arizona State–Arizona rivalry has a meaningful past, Spindler understands that most people do not have history in mind when they root for their favorite team.

“I think it’s a point of university pride,” he said.

“It’s kind of like Phoenix people saying ‘beat L.A.’ This is the thing that we look forward to each year.”

#25 ASU Men's Basketball will take on #17 Arizona on Thursday, Feb. 15th, at 7 p.m. at Wells Fargo Arena. 

Previous episodes:

After Hour: ASU Professor talks consulting on 'The Post'

After Hour: There's a cadaver lab on campus?

After Hour: Tempe's up-and-coming comic opens for Michael Che and Collin Jost

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