Gridiron Glory: UW and WSU Unite to Extend Apple Cup Rivalry Beyond 2028

In a surprising turn of events, the final whistle on the iconic Apple Cup rivalry won't be blown next Saturday. Washington and Washington State have reached a groundbreaking agreement, in principle, ensuring the continuation of the fierce series for at least the next five years, extending the gridiron battle through 2028. This exciting development was jointly revealed by the two universities on Sunday, signaling a commitment to preserving a tradition that dates back to 1900.

The terms of the agreement are currently undergoing finalization, as disclosed in an official statement. However, key details have been unveiled, outlining a scheduled series of showdowns that will ignite fan fervor. The next chapter unfolds on September 14, 2024, at Lumen Field, with subsequent clashes alternating between the hallowed grounds of Pullman and Seattle in the years to follow—2025 and 2027 in Pullman, 2026 and 2028 in Seattle.

The Apple Cup has been a cornerstone of collegiate sports in Washington, and its continuation brings relief and excitement to fans. The imminent face-off on Saturday, where the undefeated No. 4 UW (11-0) faces off against the potential spoiler WSU (5-6), will mark the final meeting as Pac-12 partners. The Huskies are set to officially join the Big Ten next summer, adding a layer of significance to this weekend's clash.

UW President Ana Mari Cauce expressed her enthusiasm for the agreement, emphasizing the cherished tradition's importance. "The Apple Cup tradition is beloved by Huskies, Cougars, and football fans across Washington and beyond, so one of my priorities has been to ensure that it continues into this new era," she stated in a release. The decision to alternate venues between Lumen Field and each campus reflects a strategic approach to keep the rivalry vibrant and engaging.

UW Athletic Director Troy Dannen underscored the historic value of the Apple Cup, acknowledging its endurance amid the evolving landscape of collegiate athletics. "While the landscape of intercollegiate athletics continues to change — including conference affiliation — the Apple Cup remains an indelible part of our universities’ identities," Dannen remarked. He extended gratitude to Washington State and WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun for collaborating on a mutually beneficial arrangement, ensuring the continuation of this cherished tradition.

The rivalry, boasting 115 meetings, has seen the Huskies hold a 75-33-6 advantage. The symbolic Apple Cup Trophy, a tradition since 1963, will continue to be awarded to the victor by the governor of the state of Washington. This agreement not only secures the future of a century-old tradition but also brings a sense of unity and excitement to football enthusiasts across the state. With Washington's upcoming schedules now filled through 2028, the Apple Cup's enduring legacy is poised to captivate fans for years to come.

In an unprecedented move, the Apple Cup is set to break tradition, making its debut in September, a decision driven by the necessity to adapt in challenging times. The sentiment echoes the words of Dick Baird, a former Roosevelt High linebacker with ties to both Washington State University (WSU) and the University of Washington (UW). Reflecting on the complexities arising from financial considerations, Baird remarked, "I'm really happy that something good came out of this whole mess that was created by money."

A veteran of the rivalry himself, having played at WSU and served as a Husky assistant coach from 1984 to 1998, Baird recognizes the magnitude of the Apple Cup. The decision to shift the game earlier in the season, away from its traditional end-of-year slot, stems from the practical challenges posed by the later months, particularly in Pullman. "It'd be nice to keep it at the end of the year, but who wants to go to Pullman in November? That's a tough place to go and play the later in the year it gets," Baird observed.

Despite the departure from the accustomed schedule, the essence of the Apple Cup remains intact, and Baird is thrilled about the continuation of this storied rivalry. "I'm just thrilled they kept it alive. It's such a meaningful game for our state — for the high schools that play ball in our state and obviously the two big schools that have dominated the college scene. It's just really cool for me. I'm really glad they did it," he expressed.

Adding a significant twist to the upcoming face-off, the Apple Cup will return to Lumen Field in the fall of 2024, marking its first appearance since 2011 (then known as CenturyLink Field). This strategic move addresses the fiscal imperative emphasized by UW Athletic Director Troy Dannen, who previously highlighted the critical need for the Huskies to host seven home games each season.

Acknowledging the efforts of First & Goal Inc. President Chuck Arnold and the collaboration with UW, WSU Athletic Director Pat Chun expressed gratitude for securing Lumen Field for the 2024 Apple Cup. Chun recognized the venue's significance as one of the premier sports arenas, ensuring a memorable experience for the student-athletes.

The decision to forge ahead with the Apple Cup, despite heightened emotions surrounding UW's impending move to the Big Ten and ongoing litigation over control of Pac-12 assets, underscores a shared commitment to the longstanding in-state tradition. As the anticipation builds for Saturday's clash, both sides are fueled not only by the rivalry's history but also by the resilience displayed in preserving a cherished tradition amid challenges.

In the lead-up to the Apple Cup, UW quarterback Michael Penix Jr. emphatically dismissed any notion of overlooking the storied rivalry in anticipation of the looming Pac-12 championship game. With unwavering conviction, Penix declared, “It’s the Apple Cup. What you mean? We can’t lose that.”

Addressing concerns about the team's focus on the impending Pac-12 championship just six days after the Apple Cup, Penix emphasized the unparalleled significance of the rivalry within Husky Nation. "That’s one of the biggest games for Husky Nation, with the whole tradition and everything. We’re not looking over that. We’re going to be ready for it," he asserted.

While acknowledging the excitement of securing a spot in the Pac-12 championship, Penix stressed the importance of staying grounded and focused on the task at hand. "Yeah man, it’s exciting to know we’ll be in the [Pac-12] championship. But there’s still work to be done," he remarked. In a final rallying cry, Penix made it clear that underestimating the Apple Cup was out of the question, stating, "Like I said, man, if you’re not excited for the Apple Cup then you’re in the wrong spot." With this resolute mindset, Penix and the Huskies are poised to approach the Apple Cup with the intensity and respect it deserves, ensuring a thrilling showdown that honors the rich tradition of this celebrated rivalry.

As the Apple Cup draws near, UW quarterback Michael Penix Jr.'s unwavering commitment to the rivalry echoes the sentiments of Husky Nation. With a resolute focus on the tradition and significance embedded in the Apple Cup, Penix dismisses any notion of overlooking the impending clash in favor of the Pac-12 championship game. For him and the entire team, the Apple Cup stands as a pinnacle, a game not to be taken lightly or underestimated.

In the face of the excitement surrounding the prospect of a Pac-12 championship, Penix remains grounded, emphasizing that there's still work to be done. His words serve as a rallying cry, a reminder that the Apple Cup is not just a game; it's a cherished tradition that demands respect and enthusiasm.

In declaring, "If you’re not excited for the Apple Cup, then you’re in the wrong spot," Penix encapsulates the sentiment that permeates the team. The impending clash is not merely a stepping stone but a momentous event deserving of their full attention and preparation.

As the Huskies gear up for the Apple Cup, Penix's resolute mindset sets the tone for a showdown that goes beyond the field—a testament to the enduring legacy and significance of this celebrated rivalry. The stage is set for a thrilling chapter in the history of the Apple Cup, where tradition meets determination on the gridiron, leaving an indelible mark on Husky Nation.