It’s never where you start but where you finish.
At Arizona State and the University of Arizona the past five years or so have been, for the most part, successful ones on the athletic front with both schools turning around their fortunes behind innovative, forward-thinking athletic directors in Greg Byrne at UA and ASU’s Ray Anderson.
Each have made high-profile coaching changes and subsequent hires which have added stability to the “money programs” like football and men’s basketball.
Success has bred success.
With said success brings higher expectations in both Tempe and Tucson from the programs, as well as their respective fan bases, which don’t need any motivation when it comes to the Territorial Cup.
The rivalry may be heated but it’s also healthy.
It starts with the two men in charge.
“Ray and I have a very good relationship,” Byrne told Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat in a recent phone interview. “We see each other regularly at meetings and have had lunch, just the two of us, before. I think it’s important he and I have a good relationship.”
Anderson’s long-term goals on and off the field at ASU mirror those of Byrne’s and each school have gone so far as to hold functions in the other’s backyard to help appeal to their independent fanbases.
In just his second year, Anderson has been impressed with what he’s seen in the Territorial Cup showdowns.
“I like the rivalry, Anderson said to Cesmat. “I like intense competition and I don’t mind a little edge to it. I think it’s in a good spot.”
Both football teams have claimed Pac-12 South Championships the past two years and the UA basketball program under Sean Miller has frequently been on the cusp of the Final Four. Anderson is hoping the hiring of Bobby Hurley can help somewhat balance the power on the court, although the Sun Devils have beaten the Wildcats in their past two visits to Wells Fargo Arena.
“I think one of the great things about college athletics is the rivalry,” Byrne explained. “It gets people talking 365 days a year…obviously we want to beat ’em.”
Rest assured the feeling is mutual in Tempe.