Apple Cup 2023: Reflecting on the history of Washington's iconic football game

With the dissolution of the PAC-12 conference, Washington State's most epic rivalry is set to enter a new chapter. Local historian Feliks Banel reflects on the 115 games past.

"The Apple Cup in Washington—it’s not just about sports. You couldn’t have two parts of the state more different," said Banel. "Extreme Eastern Washington on the Idaho border. Extreme Western Washington on the shores of Puget Sound. These very stark cultural, political and economic differences. So once a year, you get to have that kind of battle it out on the football field with these proxies."

(File / FOX 13)

The first cross-state faceoff took place at the turn of the century.

"College football is like junior pro-football nowadays. That wasn’t the case in 1900. I don’t know how many people watched that first game, it was muddy, it was snowy," said Banel. "There’s some debate as to whether that happened on Thanksgiving Day or the day after Thanksgiving. It was a 5-5 tie. It doesn’t mean a field goal and a safety. Touchdowns were worth five points in those days."

According to Banel, the Huskies name wasn't attached to the team at the University of Washington until 1921. Washington State University was dubbed the Cougars a couple years before that, in 1919.

For a while, they called it the Governor’s Trophy. The Washington Apple Grower’s Commissioned a trophy in the year 1963. 

"It was supposed to be played after the JFK assassination," said Banel. "Our governor, Albert Rosellini, delayed it by a week, played it a week late."

The showdown was not always an annual affair. There was a hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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"They did skip it twice during World War II," said Banel. "So it’s not a sure thing, but its as close to a sure thing as you’ll get."

As the Pacific Coast Conference hangs by a thread, Banel believes it’s unlikely to be a high-stakes match moving forward.

"The meaning will definitely change. It’s very cool when it actually has the ability to spoil someone’s season," said Banel. "It’s rare that the Apple Cup will be a spoiler ever again and that’s kind of sad."