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The Duel in the Desert Returns
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 11/21/2012
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Nov. 21, 2012

By Andy Ewing

UA Communication Services

The 85th match up for the oldest trophy bearing rivalry in the NCAA will occur this Friday as Arizona and Arizona State battle for the Territorial Cup. The legacy began in 1899 and was won by Arizona State, then known as the Arizona Territorial Normal School, by a score of 11-2.  Arizona has since separated itself with a ten game edge over the Sun Devils, leading the series 47-37-1.

Not only is the Cup the oldest in the NCAA, it boasts one of the more interesting storylines as well. 

The Territorial Cup was lost, almost immediately after the first game in 1899. It would be more than 80 years later until the Territorial Cup was found in the basement of an old Tempe church.  While the Territorial Cup was lost, other trophies were given to the victors of the annual match up, including the Governor's Trophy, the Ben Goo Trophy, and the Saguaro Trophy.  The Ben Goo Trophy is now given as the Bob Moran Most Valuable Player Award, and the Saguaro Trophy is awarded to the winning head coach. 

"All great rivalries have something that they share," said Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne.  "We talk a lot about making sure we have the Cup every year. That's an important part of who we are and what we do."

Head football coach Rich Rodriguez will lead the team in his first rivalry game against Arizona State, and hopes to keep both the Territorial Cup and Saguaro Trophy in Tucson. He'll have some familiarity with Arizona State, as head coach Todd Graham and several others used to be on Rodriguez's West Virginia staff.

"There are a few coaches on that staff that I've worked with before, but we're competing now," said Rodriguez. "I'm not calling them up and trading bedtime stories."

The football game won't be the only Arizona rivalry on Friday, as the volleyball team will travel up to Tempe to take on the Sun Devils.

While the Territorial Cup is reserved for the football game, the volleyball team isn't just competing for bragging rights. A half-point will be on the line for the two schools to count towards the Territorial Cup Series trophy, a piece of hardware given at the end of the season to the school with the most victories in rivalry match ups. The Wildcat volleyball squad won 3-1 to get the first half-point earlier this year in McKale, and is hoping to get the season sweep.

"We got the first half-point here," said head volleyball coach Dave Rubio. "I think the Territorial Cup Series gives pride to the whole athletic department. It's important and it adds more to something that's already pretty big."

The Territorial Cup Series trophy has not left the University of Arizona since its creation in 2009, as the Wildcats have won it all three years. Arizona is currently down 2 points to 1.5, but that could all change with the two big games the day after Thanksgiving.

When these two schools meet, everything is put on the line and the prospect of victory greatly outweighs the pain left on the field or court. Coach Rubio has experienced this for 21 years and knows exactly what it means to give 100 percent for a win.

"My favorite memory was in the late nineties, when my assistant coach Chris Lamb was here," said Rubio. "We were down 2-0 up at their place, but we came storming back and ended up winning in five. My assistant coach was so fired up that she high-fives me while Chris Lamb hits me on the shoulder. I end up dislocating my shoulder. I fell on my knees writhing in pain, and I realize I have to get up and shake Arizona State coach Patti Snyder's hand, so I get up, shake her hand, and then go into the training room to get my shoulder reset."

The battles fought between these two teams are fierce, and test the will-power of the athletes and coaches alike. However, the victories are sweet, and can lead to greatness beyond the Grand Canyon State.

"Our goal is to be the best athletic program in the state of Arizona," Byrne said, " which could then lead to being one of the best athletic programs in the Pac-12, and if you're one of the best in the Pac-12, you can be one of the best in the nation."

The Arizona Wildcats will look to take one step closer to that ultimate goal on Friday as two of its teams will look to compete in games that could be the most intensive and rewarding games of the players' lives.

 

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