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August 1, 2013

'Territorial' author puts Arizona, ASU rivalry in spotlight

The Arizona-Arizona State football rivalry predates statehood. The prize for which the two universities' team play each year, the Territorial Cup, is older than any prize in the game.

Any fan, player or coach who has been involved in the Duel in the Desert can attest to its tradition, history and sheer animus.

Shane Dale is one such Arizonan entrenched in the Duel. A University of Arizona graduate, former Daily Wildcat editor and longtime Grand Canyon State resident, he said that in 2011 he had a thought.

"It's a shame this rivalry doesn't have a book," he said. "It deserves national attention."

Dale's new book, "Territorial: The History of the Duel in the Desert," chronicles the series' 114-year history. From its humble begins in the 19th century, to the spectacle it is today, "Territorial" examines the rivalry through the players who were a part of it.

For those new to the Duel, the book is an all-encompassing course in its illustrious history. For longtime fans on either side of the divide - Wildcats and Sun Devils - it's a trip down memory lane. And even the most avid fans are sure to learn something new from the behind-the-scenes look Dale takes.

"Territorial" accomplishes a nearly impossible feat for an Arizona resident (unless he/she is a Lumberjack); it examines the rivalry objectively.

Great moments from both sides are featured. "The Streak" plays a central role. Amid UA's undefeated run from 1982 through 1990 are some of the most important games in the series.

"[The] '82 and '85 [games] personify the rivalry," Dale said. "Record doesn't matter.

"[The] 1986 [season] was the last time both teams were ranked."

Sun Devil successes are equally represented, including ASU's dominance in the Frank Kush era. Some of today's rancor between the two fan bases can be traced to 1968, the fourth Sun Devil win in a nine-year stretch.

That season, Dale explains, the Duel became the Ultimatum Bowl. Those unfamiliar with the circumstances surrounding this installment of the rivalry will definitely want to learn more.

"Territorial" also sheds light on what it means to lose the Cup. It is not always such a bad thing. Take the 1995 game.

"In both '94 and '95, Arizona made a double-digit comeback," Dale said. "The [ASU] loss in '95 in Tempe…was the catalyst for their Rose Bowl run the following year."

Take heed all Wildcat faithful, still licking your wounds from November's Duel. Jake Plummer credits a loss to UA for fueling the best season in program history.

"The seniors said, 'We're not going to lose again,'" Dale said. "The [1995 Duel] loss was a blessing in disguise."

Plummer is one of the many recognizable names featured.

"[The book] would not be complete without him," Dale said.

He echoed the same sentiment of former UA defensive standout Chuck Cecil. The hard-hitter laid the foundation for the Desert Swarm defenses, which put Wildcat football on the national map.

Leading those outstanding Swarm teams was head coach Dick Tomey, who Dale said was a tremendous resource.

"You won't meet a nicer guy. [Tomey] remembers details of all 14 games he coached," he said. "[Tomey] said, of all the rivalries he was part of, this one was the nastiest."

For as much tension that exists between the Wildcats and Sun Devils, Dale said reception was warm from both programs.

So what's the epilogue going to be for "Territorial"?

"In the next 3-4 years," he said, "it's a realistic possibility [the Duel] could be for the Pac-12 South championship.

"Imagine the atmosphere."

"Territorial: The History of the Duel in the Desert" is available through Amazon and Kindle. Readers can visit the official site at http://theterritorialcup.com/.

Kyle KensingKyle Kensing
GOAZCATS.com Staff Writer

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