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University of Washington Huskies Football

Commentary: Here’s hoping Apple Cup continues after report suggests it could

Washington State quarterback Cameron Ward, right, comes up short in a 2-point conversion attempt against Washington on Nov. 26 at Gesa Field in Pullman.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – If you watched Washington’s athletic director introduce himself two Tuesdays ago, you’d have thought the Apple Cup was a few weeks from its farewell game.

Troy Dannen wasn’t exactly ambiguous when he talked about the Huskies needing to “evolve” to meet financial standards, and that seven home football games each year would be necessary to do so. The implication was that with UW moving to the Big Ten in 2024, the annual meeting between Washington and Washington State was likely toast unless the Cougars agreed to come to Montlake each year.

“I don’t want to lose history and the traditions,” Dannen said. “I also know that I have this economic model, particularly as we move to the Big Ten, where we’re playing with people that frankly have an economic model that is, I don’t want to say far superior, but far greater than ours.”

That sounded as if the Huskies were willing to do without their 123-year-old rivalry game with that school in Pullman. Then, Ross Dellenger of Yahoo! Sports posted a story Tuesday that suggested the Apple Cup – not to mention the rivalry game between Oregon and Oregon State – was not on the brink of extinction.

The nearly 2,000-word report detailed a new “alliance” proposal involving Washington and Washington State that touched on the schools’ discussions with Mountain West officials among other things. But perhaps the most notable paragraph to Huskies and Cougars fans – and traditionalists at large – was this.

“In 2024 and possibly in 2025 as well, the two schools are expected to assemble a schedule that includes previously scheduled nonconference opponents, games with their respective in-state rivals (Washington and Oregon) and as many as eight games against Mountain West Conference teams as part of the scheduling alliance.”

Ross Dellenger is not an AD or conference commissioner. He is a (credible) journalist reporting what he believes to be true based on sources. So nothing is official – but that sounds like potentially great news, no?

Perhaps the Apple Cup doesn’t share the intensity of the annual game between Washington and Oregon, but it is a Pacific Northwest staple and favorite for the fans.

It’s understandable that Washington might have to nix this game to stay financially viable – just as it is understandable that it had to depart from the Pac-12. But fiscal gain and major costs aren’t mutually exclusive – and losing the Apple Cup would come with a hefty emotional price tag.

In light of the Yahoo! report Tuesday, I asked various Huskies about the program clashing with the Cougars for years to come. They were far from indifferent.

Senior linebacker Edefuan Ulofoshio: “I actually think it’s really important. I think it’s really important for the state, the tradition – just because the outside influences put us in this position doesn’t mean certain histories have to die off. It would be a shame if the Apple Cup didn’t prolong.”

Senior edge player Zion Tupuola-Fetui: “I think the Apple Cup is special, and if there is any way to retain it, I wish them to do it, but I’m not in the politics or in the front office making those decisions. Wazzu has always been a fun opponent to play – and even worse to lose to.”

Junior cornerback and Seattle native Mishael Powell: “I think they should try their best way possible to get that game, regardless of if we’re not in the same conference. I think that’s just a competitive, fun in-state game that I’d be pretty sad and disappointed if we couldn’t play Washington State, and I bet they’d be sad and disappointed, too.”

Again, this is just a report. Even if the story is spot-on and forecasts the immediate future, we’re unclear of where the game would be played or if it would have life beyond the next season or two. But in the ever-evolving world of college football , the idea of maintaining certain customs is comforting.

One thing ZTF added was that in-state rivalry games are the easiest ones to get hyped up for. This is true of fan bases as well. Ultimately, doing away with the Apple Cup might be good for UW’s fund, but not for its fans’ fun.

Right now, all the focus for Washington players and coaches is Stanford, and they’d be foolish to take the Cardinal lightly given Saturday’s scare versus Arizona State. But the Apple Cup is never too far from their minds. Hopefully, that will long be the case.