Coach Herm Edwards’ 6-5 Arizona State Sun Devils are out of the running for the Pac-12 South title but can play for a better bowl bid, and in-state bragging rights, when they face Arizona in the Territorial Cup. (Photo and story by Harley Yearout/Cronkite News)
Territorial Cup coaches will experience their first Cup matchup together
With the Pac-12 South title race now dead and gone for the Arizona State Sun Devils, the team turns its focus to the University of Arizona and the battle for the Territorial Cup.
The matchup this season might feature more stories outside the lines than on the field. The Territorial Cup dates to 1899, but this season it features two coaches in their first year at their respective universities.
ASU coach Herm Edwards and his Sun Devils already have secured their spot in a bowl game with six victories this season. Coach Kevin Sumlin’s Wildcats will be seeking their sixth win and the bowl berth that would come with it by beating ASU in Tucson Saturday.
Even though ASU has locked up a bowl bid, the game still has implications because it will determine the level of bowl game likely to extend an invitation to the Sun Devils. As of Monday afternoon, most college football platforms predict ASU will play in the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl or the Hyundai Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.
“If you win this game, it probably gets you a better seed in a bowl game,” Edwards said on Monday.
Both Edwards and Sumlin addressed the media Monday and gave the vibe that there perhaps won’t be as much bad blood as fans may expect, despite what is at stake for both teams.
“A good friend of mine, yes sir,” Edwards said with a smile when asked about Sumlin on Monday.
Edwards and Sumlin go back to Sumlin’s time with Purdue, where he was a receivers coach from 1998-2000. Sumlin took an internship in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during Tony Dungy’s stint as coach of the franchise. Edwards was on the Tampa Bay staff and connected with Sumlin.
Most recently, Sumlin invited Edwards to speak to his team when Sumlin was coach at Texas A&M.
“Two years ago, I had him come talk to our team at A&M,” Sumlin said. “He came and talked, and he talked about not just football, but about life. You guys have heard him speak, he’s energetic.”
Edwards noted that when Sumlin took the head coaching position at Arizona, Edwards reached out to him with a letter.
“He’s a good football coach,” Edwards said. “He’s a very good football coach. He’s done a good job as a college football coach.”
Both coaches have had their share of rivalries. Edwards played professionally for the Philadelphia Eagles, bitter rivals of the Dallas Cowboys. Sumlin has experienced the Red River Showdown as an assistant at Oklahoma and the Apple Cup as a graduate assistant at Washington State, among other rivalries during his college coaching career.
Edwards took time Monday to reflect on perhaps his most bitter rival, which dates all the way back to his high school days.
Edwards attended Monterey High School in Seaside, California. His rival then was the Seaside Spartans.
“Never lost to the Spartans. Three-and-0 against the Spartans,” he said. “They were pretty good, too.”
The rivalry had added meaning for Edwards, as he was set to attend Seaside but was bused to Monterrey due to desegregation rules at the time.
“That’s where it all started for me,” he said. “I should have went to Seaside High. And everybody will tell you in that town that, you know what, one of the best players ever in our town had to go across the tracks to play at another school. So it was kind of bittersweet, because I grew up thinking I was going to Seaside High and then, ‘not so fast.’ ”
This season, Edwards can start a new rivalry when he writes his first chapter in the Territorial Cup’s history.
“Until you’re involved in it, you really don’t get a feel for it,” Sumlin said.
While the coaches have yet to be involved in a Territorial Cup battle, they understand the passion of the fan bases leading up to the game.
“Really emotional fan bases when it comes to this football game,” Edwards said.
“Sometimes the intensity level in the parking lot is worse than on the field,” Sumlin said.
This weekend, both coaches will know all that it means to be involved in the Territorial Cup.