Did You Know: Territorial Cup Is Not A Rivalry Trophy

August 22, 2014

(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez/ KJZZ News)
The Territorial Cup on display at the Luhrs Reading Room, in the ASU Hayden Library.
(Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez/ KJZZ News)
ASU Archivist Robert Spindler poses with the Territorial Cup® in the Luhrs Reading Room at ASU Hayden Library. He’s responsible for the care of the Territorial Cup® for ASU.
(Photo courtesy of Arizona Archives, Arizona State University Libraries)
The 1899 Arizona Territorial Normal School football team. The ‘Normals’ pose with the Arizona Territorial Football League Championship Cup, now called the Territorial Cup in front of Old Main on the Tempe Campus.

We’ve come to know it as the symbol of a long-lasting Arizona rivalry. But a recent investigation found that the history behind it never had anything to do with the competition of two universities.

The Territorial Cup is the sought-after trophy between Arizona State University and University of Arizona. The Arizona Territorial Normal School, now ASU, first won it in 1899. Its history was that the Normals, as they were known t the time, beat UofA in a championship game. Did You Know…that information is not true?

“We did not win the cup as a direct result of the first-ever meeting between ASU and UofA on Thanksgiving Day in 1899," said ASU archivist Robert Spindler.

Spindler’s been combing through historical records and what he found debunks several of the stories behind the trophy.

“In fact, that did no cinch the cup for us," he said. "We had to play a few more games in order to have a clear winner.”

Spindler discovered the Normals played a total of seven games in the 1899-1900 season. It was the first season of the newly organized Arizona Foot Ball League. The organization consisted of Phoenix High School, Phoenix Indian School, and Arizona Territorial Normal School.  UofA was added a short time later. Spindler also discovered that in the UofA mid-season match-up, the Normals were not undefeated, but had a record of 2 and 1.

“The game against the University of Arizona was the first-ever meeting between these great rivals," Spindler said. "And we did win 11 to 2. And it was an important game for us and for the University of Arizona.”

The Normals clinched the championship on Jan. 20, 1900 against Indian School. Spindler’s research found that there was an awards ceremony six days later where the Cup was presented. The silver-plated trophy is about eight inches tall, shaped like a flower with petals bent upward with three handles and three feet welded to the body.  

“Now we recognize it as the symbol of this great rivalry between Arizona State University and the University of Arizona," Spindler said. "And that’s largely based on what I believe today was essentially the legend surrounding that first 1899 season.”

The cup disappeared at some point after it was awarded, but was recovered from a Tempe church in 1983. Because Normal, or ASU, was the winner of the championship series, ASU owns it. In 2001 ASU agreed to share it with UofA, and each year whoever wins the Big Game gets to showcase the Cup. The trophy is so old the silver is thinning. A replica was made to be used for special events. A second was created for the Tempe History Museum.