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Sun Devils vs. Wildcats: The Anatomy Of A Rivalry

The Territorial Cup is one of the oldest rivalries in college sports, but there's more to it than the numbers on a stat sheet.

Christian Petersen

Hate is defined as intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger or sense of injury.

The Territorial Cup has encompassed every bit of this unforgiving term for over a century.

While a common comparison is wins versus losses, or which university won the cup, there is 100 years of information left between the lines.

Mascot Origin

When you're two mascots representing a pair of the oldest universities in the NCAA, it's important to know how they were originated.

For ASU, the Sun Devil was not always the icon for the maroon and gold. When the Tempe Normal School existed, the student body selected the Owls for the school's initial mascot in 1889. At the beginning of the 20th century, when Tempe Normal became the Arizona State Teachers College, the mascot was then changed to the bulldog.

It wasn't until 1946 that the university's student newspaper, The State Press, pushed for a new mascot. On November 8, 1946, the student body unanimously voted to change the mascot the Sun Devil.

Bert Anthony, a former artist for Walt Disney, was handed the duty of designing our beloved Sparky. While some speculate whether or not Anthony portrayed him as Disney or not, Sparky has encountered several adjustments to his appearance with the most recent occurring in April of 2013.

In May, Bleacher Report named Sparky one of the top 25 mascots in college football.

For UA, the wildcat was not self-attained. In 1914, a Los Angeles Times columnist stated the team fought like "wildcats", and the rest is history.

However, Wilbur the Wildcat was not the original mascot either. For years, the university kept a live bobcat named Rufus Arizona as the school's mascot.

Strangely enough, the original Rufus Arizona died in 1916 and the Arizona Wildcat reported, " ... while endeavoring to perform gymnastics stunts in the limbs of a tree to which he was tied, Rufus Arizona ... fell and was hung."

Successors of the original bobcat followed until 1959 when Wilbur was born. Just like Sparky, Wilbur has experienced several wardrobe changes and altercations, but the biggest of all was the addition of his wife, Wilma, in 1986.

Where are they now - Sun Devils vs. Wildcats

Hundreds of Sun Devil and Wildcat athletes have made the transition from the collegiate level to the pros. But how do the universities match up by the numbers?

U of A has 21 alumni currently playing in the NFL, with names like Rob Gronkowski and Lance Briggs.

But ASU wins this battle with 28 former Sun Devil football players representing the university, like Super Bowl champion Terrell Suggs, Zach Miller and Vontaze Burfict.

As one of the top programs in the country, the Wildcats boast eight current alumni in the NBA with Jason Terry, Andre Iguodala and Richard Jefferson to name a few.

ASU is only represented by two former Sun Devils, but by arguably one of the elite stars in the league in James Harden.

Harden is the only current NBA player from either university that made the all-star game this season. He also represents the USA basketball team in the Summer Olympics.

Overall, the Wildcats take the NBA by the numbers, but prestige is up for discussion.

For years, the MLB has seen more Sun Devils make it to the big show than their foes down South. While that's still the case to this day, the Wildcats have made it a close race with seven alumni in the big leagues.

ASU currently has 11 including Andre Ethier, Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Willie Bloomquist, Ike Davis and Mike Leake.

It's easy to say the current and future legends that were former Sun Devils give MLB bragging rights to ASU.

Territorial Cup Stats

*UA leads ASU in all sports other than women's basketball, volleyball and hockey


  • · ASU won last 6 of 10
  • · Split last 20 meetings
  • · UA leads overall (47-37-1)
  • · ASU has better bowl record (13-12-1 vs. 7-9-1) & more conference titles (17 vs. 6)

-Men's Basketball:

  • · UA leads series 140-74


  • · UA leads series 226-193-1


  • · UA leads series 97-85


  • · Won last 32 straight vs. UA (4 seasons)

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