The following editorial originally appeared in The (Tacoma) News Tribune:
The University of Washington Huskies will play the Washington State Cougars for the Apple Cup next week.
It could be the last time the teams meet amid the great West Coast football realignment. But there’s a glimmer of hope that this intrastate rivalry might survive.
The root of the problem is the collapse of the Pac-12 Conference. Next year, UW is headed for the Big 10 Conference, and it’s not clear that the school will be able to arrange an annual matchup against its home-state rival.
It could wind up like two childhood friends who go to high school. One of them hangs out with the cool kids and no longer has time for her less-cool friend.
Nearly every Pac-12 team is jumping to another league next year. They are looking for more-lucrative, more-competitive options. Like it or not, college football at the elite level is big money.
The University of Oregon, UCLA and the University of Southern California also are switching to the Big 10. Other Pac-12 schools are switching to the Atlantic Athletic Conference and the Big 12.
That leaves just WSU and Oregon State University in the Pac-12. Maybe they’ll find some other West Coast teams willing to join them. Maybe they, too, will switch conferences. Maybe they’ll go independent.
And maybe the Apple Cup is done for after this year’s game.
Only a small percentage of Washingtonians actually graduate from UW or WSU, but their fan bases are much larger. In Washingtonians’ hearts, the Apple Cup represents bragging rights for a year, with urban against rural, Puget Sound against Eastern Washington.
Since the two schools first played on Nov. 30, 1890 (a 5-5 tie), UW has won 75 times and WSU only 33.
Just a month ago, WSU fans had high hopes for this year’s game. The Cougars started the season with four wins. Then everything went sideways. UW, meanwhile, is undefeated and on the cusp of earning one of the four coveted playoff berths.
Many WSU fans no doubt wouldn’t mind playing spoiler. Sometimes the underdog surprises. Players surely know that this game means something special not just to them but also to their fans.
The Apple Cup transcends politics that divide us and gives all Washingtonians a chance to cheer for friendly competition. It would be a terrible loss to the camaraderie of the state if that rivalry were to end.
UW recently announced its 2024 Big 10 schedule, and there’s a conspicuous open slot the weekend before Thanksgiving. We hope the school is holding it for a game against WSU.
It might take some creative scheduling every year, and maybe the game has to move from being around Thanksgiving, but the Apple Cup holds tradition, history and the dreams of Washingtonians.
That’s worth preserving even if the Huskies have cooler friends in the Big 10.