The first contest between cross-state rivals Washington State and the University of Washington took place on a muddy field in Seattle in November 1900. The Washington Agricultural College “Farmers,” as we were known then, made the 290-mile trek from Pullman to Seattle to play the UW “Sun Dodgers” in the pouring rain. The match ended in a five-to-five tie.
Because the two teams will play their 100th game together this year, we thought we’d take a look back at the history of that long relationship.
Meeting up with the UW just after the turn of the century was a spotty endeavor. After the first five annual matches–a tie, one win, and three losses for Washington State–the rivalry went on hold for two years. Then we met for another two years, but skipped a few seasons through the early teens. It’s not that Washington State didn’t have an organized team. In fact, during one missed season, 1915-16, we went to the Rose Bowl. But in the early years, the University of Washington always demanded we go to Seattle for the game, says Dick Fry, retired director of WSU sports information and author of The Crimson and the Gray, a history of the WSU Cougars. Back in the early 1900s, Washington State’s athletic director, Fred “Doc” Bohler, said, “Hey we’re not going to go over there every year,” according to Fry, who says that the Cougs had no trouble finding games, playing teams like Oregon, the University of Southern California, and Montana.
The rivals skipped two more years starting in 1943, when Washington State, along with Idaho, Oregon, and Oregon State, cancelled football for the duration of World War II. The Cougars didn’t see the Huskies again until 1945. The two teams haven’t missed a contest with one another since.
Until 1962, the annual WSU-UW game was known as the Governor’s Cup. Then Washington’s apple industry started a sponsorship, and the historic contest was renamed. This year, Boeing joined the fun with a four-year sponsorship of around $1 million.