The time has finally come.
The Territorial Cup has been on proud display in Tucson for the past year after the Wildcats defeated the Sun Devils 20-17 in Tempe. The muffed punt by Kyle Williams still lingers in the minds of ASU fans after Arizona won on a last-second field goal by Alex Zendejas.
After a full year of anticipation, the battle is renewed on Thursday evening when Arizona hosts ASU in the Duel of the Desert. While many around the country will view this game with passing interest, those who attended either of these institutions know very well how deep the hatred is between the two state schools.
It's not just a sports rivalry, either. The quality of the academics, women and nightlife are all heavily scrutinized from one school to the other. Tucson believes it is the only true university in the state, while Tempe's stock is steadily rising in the national rankings.
In reality, both schools offer a lot to their students, from rich sports traditions to endless programs of study to choose from. It's not what is similar about them that drives this rivalry, but its striking differences.
Tempe is a city that has tried very hard to remain current, building its own skyline along the banks of Tempe Town Lake (including the failed condominium high-rise off of Mill Avenue). Tucson, on the other hand, takes pride in its heritage, with poorly lit, overcrowded streets due to the lack of highways and a commitment by the city to astronomy and darkness.
Arizona State had a reputation (well deserved, I am sure) of being an elite party school, serving the unintelligent and less wealthy in-state students due to their state-enforced policy of accepting all Arizona residents that meet minimum requirements for admission. The University of Arizona was allowed to maintain a higher level of selectivity during this timeframe.
Arizona has been a university for 125 years, while ASU became a full-fledged university in 1958. These formative years have created a disdain coming from the south, a distinct air of superiority against a school that came along much later in the process. Arizona State is viewed as an "up and coming" school by the U.S. News and World Report, while UA has already arrived.
As a proud Sun Devil, I've always been confused by the spite and hatred from UA students, alumni, and fans. Then, I finally figured it out. Arizona State is beginning to overshadow the University of Arizona, and those people in question know it. ASU is located in the heart of Arizona, while UA is situated in a less fortunate location. ASU is heavily invested in new technologies and the future. The Sun Devils have come to the forefront, and the Wildcats do not approve.
The Wildcats certainly have one thing on ASU: sports. Tomorrow night, the Sun Devils will attempt to take back the Territorial Cup and restore some pride to Tempe's sports trophy case. Arizona will look to hold onto one of their great accomplishments. Tomorrow night is so much more than a game. It's a battle between old and new, an endless struggle that arrives anew every season. The time has finally come.