The competition between the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Arizona Wildcats has always been fierce, and the Territorial Cup games have seen their fair share of spectacular moments. The two teams have battled for in-state bragging rights since 1899, and the history of the "Duel in the Desert" is as rich as the bad blood between the two fan bases.
In many ways, the Territorial Cup is one of the defining characteristics of the entire state of Arizona. As a child, you either have your parents decide your rooting interests for you, or you are forced to align yourself with one school. Because when it comes to the Territorial Cup, there is no in between. You're either a Wildcat or a Sun Devil, and that's just the way it is.
We spoke with author Shane Dale, who released his book, "Territorial," this summer.
House of Sparky: What's been your favorite part of the whole experience of writing a book about the Territorial Cup and pitching it to two fan bases?
Shane Dale: Well the fact that I was able to talk to so many former players and coaches, a lot of whom I talked to in person whether they were in the NFL or college. It was awesome to just kind of have an excuse to call them up and talk to them. Like Jake Plummer and Chuck Cecil and Frank Kush and all of those guys, that was a lot of fun.
Marketing the book has been a challenge because I self-published the book but I got a lot of great press on it as soon as the book came out so I was very happy about that. I got some radio time, TV time on Channel 3 thanks to Mr. Denny's help a few weeks ago.
HoS: Do you think you've sold more books to Wildcat fans or Sun Devil fans so far?
Dale: I don't know, I think it's pretty even. There's a handful of reviews on Amazon, I've got about 12 or 13 of them and it's split down the middle. I think they're actually starting to go more ASU but my guess is probably more ASU fans because most of the advertising for the book has been done in the Phoenix area. I had some press down in Tucson but I think the majority of it is ASU. Plus the fact there's more ASU students and more ASU alumni.
HoS: What do you think is the defining part of this rivalry?
Dale: Two things. I think the historical part of it, the off-field part of it especially in the 50s when ASU was trying to become ASU and U of A was obviously very opposed to that, I think that's a unique thing you don't see in a lot of other college football rivalries.
I think the other thing is that there's so many upsets that it really doesn't matter what the records are. It sounds like a sports cliché but you look at U of A's undefeated streak against ASU from 1982 to 1990 and more often than not, ASU had a better record and U of A kept finding a way to beat them. Then you look at the last three years in this rivalry and the team with the worse record has gone on the road and beaten the team with the better record. It doesn't really seem to matter who's more talented and that has less bearing on the outcome of the game than who wants it more.
HoS: Which Territorial Cup game do you think will go down as the best ever?
Dale: It's hard for me to say because I didn't see it, but from what I've heard and read, it's 1975 because both teams were highly ranked which is very rare in this rivalry. ASU was ranked No. 8 in the country and U of A was No. 12 and the game was in Tempe and players said there were a lot of U of A fans there trading words with the ASU fans. It kind of sounds like a soccer environment with the way that the players described it.
It was a great game and it went back and forth. John Jefferson's catch in the back of the end zone gave ASU momentum before halftime and ASU won the game 24-21. That's just kind of one of the exceptions to the rule as far as this game meaning something more than just pride.
HoS: Where do you think last year's game stands compared to some of the other great historical games in this series history?
Dale: I think it was a great way to set the tone for Coach Graham and Coach Rodriguez. The fact that it was nationally televised, the fact that there was a comeback in the game, a lot of crazy plays. Obviously it didn't mean a whole lot in terms of a high-level bowl game but it was a great game, it was great that it was on national TV and it was the highest scoring game in the rivalry since 1998.
And maybe this game sets the tone where a couple of years down the road, this game could be for the Pac-12 South Championship. It's one of those things where both Rodriguez and Graham have to stay at their respective schools for awhile which is always a big if, but I'd like to say that this game set the tone for starting to get this game a little more national attention than it has in the past.
HoS: Who gave the best interviews and opened up the most to you for this book?"
On the U of A side, one of the first guys I interviewed was Dick Tomey and I loved talking to him because he coached in 14 games versus ASU and he remembers great details. He took the rivalry very personally and he really embraced the rivalry and all of his players talked about how Tomey broke the season into three parts: Nonconference games, conference games, and the ASU game.
On the ASU side, Jake Plummer didn't take the rivalry probably as personally as some guys did. He wanted to beat U of A just cause he wanted to beat everyone equally badly. He took the perspective, ‘I don't hate these guys, I just want to beat them.
Juan Roque on the ASU side, if there is a Mr. Sun Devil, it would probably be him. Tim Healey, the longtime play-by-play guy for ASU, I talked to him for over an hour and he was great.
HoS: How do you see this rivalry evolving in the next 10 years?
Dale: I think they're both great coaches and Rodriguez already has a top recruiting class next season and I think Todd Graham will do the same. ASU is focused big time on keeping Arizona talent in-state and they're off to a good start there. It's very rare now for a coach to have a tenure of more than five years so you never know, one or both might get fired, one or both might decide to move on somewhere else but if they both stick around, I think in the next 10 years at least two or three times this game will be for the Pac-12 South Championship. I think both teams will be perennial top 25 teams for the majority of the next decade if they both stick around."
HoS: Do you have any more plans for writing in the near future?
Dale: I do, I'm trying to get a book underway and it's still in the beginning stages so I don't want to mention what it's about but hopefully in the next few weeks I'll be able to talk about it. I definitely want to write more books in the future, and keep to what I know which is Arizona sports."
You can purchase "Territorial" by clicking on our link. To learn more about the rivalry and the book itself, visit www.theterritorialcup.com