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Vandalism of 'A' Mountain fuels ASU-UA rivalry

Days before ASU football faces off against UA, 'A' Mountain was vandalized with the Wildcat's school colors

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The "A" atop A Mountain painted over with the University of Arizona colors in Tempe on Sunday Nov. 20, 2022.

Tempe residents and students woke up Sunday morning to ASU's iconic gold "A" on Hayden Butte vandalized with the UA's school colors. The "A" also had UA's slogan — "bear down" but with a downward-pointing arrow — in scribbled scarlet letters, with paint cans and rollers left behind at the scene. 

The vandalism was found on ASU mascot Sparky's birthday and just days before the University's rivalry football game against the UA Wildcats on Friday, a traditional battle for the Territorial Cup. This is not the first time A Mountain has been painted in UA colors before the big game. 

The ASU Police Department said it would have not been informed of an arrest. However, if a suspect is found, the department said the perpetrator would face vandalism and trespassing charges, in addition to potential criminal damages.

It is an annual tradition for the Student Alumni Association to guard the "A" during the week leading up to ASU's game with UA. Montse Torres, the president of the association, said they didn't commence the guarding until last night, but the association will keep post at A Mountain from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. every night until the game starts.

"I understand this rivalry is all in good fun competition, but it has thrown us a curve ball. We have tried to think of ways to prevent this from happening in the future that doesn't involve closing the mountain which is not possible since it is city property," said Torres, a junior studying political science, in an email. "A Moutain is an integral part of our university culture. It is a symbol for all things ASU and the foundation of so many of our traditions, and we want this vandalization to be the last time."

ASU Media Relations declined requests for comment, saying they don't have anything to add on behalf of the University. 

Interim football coach Shaun Aguano said he made sure the team saw the painting and encouraged them to use it as motivation to "execute at practice" and "play with passion, not emotion." Aguano said he also showed a clip of a scuffle between two UA players as an example of "things we don't need to do."

"When people start talking, the crowd gets in your face, but if you're emotional you get yourself in trouble," Agauno said during a press conference Monday. "When you're emotional you make bad mistakes, 15-yard penalties."

The "A" was first installed on Hayden Butte in 1938 when ASU was then named the Arizona State Teachers College. 

The rivalry is rooted not just in football but in Proposition 200, a law in the '50s that helped ASU transition from a college to a university after UA spent decades being the only state university. Bleacher Report wrote that Shane Dale, the author of "Territorial: The History of the Duel in the Desert," said UA students burned "No on 200" into the grass the day of ASU's first football game in Sun Devil Stadium. 

The Territorial Cup is one of the oldest rivalry trophies in college football.

A Mountain is also part of Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community land and is considered a sacred area linking the community to its ancestors. The community did not respond to requests for comment. Tempe Police also did not respond to a request for comment. 

Last year, ASU defeated UA with a score of 38-15. The Sun Devils are 45-49 all-time against the Wildcats. Since 1958, ASU leads the series 37-26-1.

Edited by Wyatt Myskow, David Rodish and Piper Hansen.

Reach the reporter at and @WaissAlexis on Twitter.

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Alexis WaissAssignment Editor, Senior Reporter

Alexis Waiss is an assignment editor and senior reporter, covering breaking news and writing long-form stories. Alexis worked on SP's politics desk for a year, where she reported on the Legislature, higher education policy, student government, the city of Tempe and stories highlighting social justice. She previously worked as a fellow for the Asian American Journalist Association's VOICES program. 

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