Apple Cup on life support: Community’s reaction to the end of an era

With UW leaving the Pac-12 Conference to join the Big Ten, Washington will be losing a century-old tradition after 2028.

UW and WSU have a rivalry going back over 100 years. | Illustration by Cole Martin

With college football season ending this month with the Sugar Bowl on January 1, where UW played against the University of Texas’ Longhorns, it is time for Husky fans to celebrate the many things that came out from this season. Such things like our quarterback Michael Penix Jr winning Best Player in College Football, and UW football coach Kalen DeBoer winning Coach of the Year. The biggest news to celebrate is that Apple Cup has been renewed for five more years, even though UW is leaving Pac-12 in August 2024 to join the Big Ten athletics conference event.  

On August 4, 2023, the official UW athletics website “Go Huskies” announced that UW is leaving Pac-12 at the beginning of the 2024 football season in August. By leaving Pac-12, UW will no longer be able to play other universities on the Pacific Coast and western side of the country, for the Big Ten will have us facing universities in the Northeast.  

UW President Ana Mari Cauce told “Go Huskies” that UW will be joining the Big Ten due to the conference’s higher opportunity and stability it can provide for UW athletes, due to being one of the top conferences in the nation. By entering the Big Ten, UW will also be a part of the Big Ten’s Academic Alliance, which will benefit all students whether they are athletes or not, due to its “world-class research institutions dedicated to advancing their academic missions,” according to President Cauce.  

Although, the Big Ten will provide UW many new opportunities, leaving Pac-12 means UW will no longer be able to play against our rival, Washington State University (WSU). The Apple Cup is the biggest loss of this transition.  

As many know, the Apple Cup is the football match between UW and WSU that has been played every year since 1900 on Thanksgiving weekend. This year’s Apple Cup, played on November 25 at Husky Stadium, marked the 115th match between the rival schools and was considered to be the last Apple Cup to ever happen. This revelation made many football fans clamor with rage due to losing one of the oldest rivalries in the country, as WSU President Kirk Schulz told “Go Huskies”.  

Due to the large reaction of disappointment, on November 19, the “Go Huskies” website announced that the Apple Cup contract was renewed for the next five years. This means the 2028 Apple Cup will be the final Apple Cup unless the contract is renewed once more. In celebration of the renewal, the schools will be hosting 2024’s Apple Cup at neutral stadium Lumen Field on September 14.  

Although many are happy to have the Apple Cup saved for five more years, there are many that still feel disappointed by the entire situation. UW Alumni of class of 2003 Lauren S. is one of these fans that has mixed feelings towards this massive sports transition.  

“I understand why they did it, but my gut reaction was that it was too bad, as it basically ends an era- the fun of a high stakes rivalry, etc,” said Lauren about her reaction towards UW’s decision to join the Big Ten. “But really this highlights that college sports have become less about the students, fans, and to some degree the players, and is just a big business.”  

Indeed, what Lauren said rings true for WSU Junior Alden Perrine, whose feelings towards the renewal and break up reflect the feeling of college sports becoming less about the students, for the 2024 game’s location complicates things for WSU students. Alden told The Tacoma Ledger that she comes from Husky parents which made the Apple Cup a big deal all her life. Next year, as a celebration of entering her senior year at WSU’s Pullman campus, she was planning to attend the Apple Cup with her father, since it was expected to be played at Pullman’s Martin Stadium. But thanks to UW leaving Pac-12 and having to renew the Apple Cup, the 2024 Apple Cup will be at Lumen Field in Seattle, complicating things for Alden due to WSU starting school in late August.  

Apple Cup 2023, at Husky Stadium, in the first quarter. | Photo by Karla Pastrana

This change of date also complicates things for UW students who come from out of state like UWT student Hokulani Ego. Many out-of-state students don’t arrive in Washington until the end of September, since UW tends to start the academic year in late September and early October. This will make many students unable to attend the Apple Cup for the next five years, making it feel like the administrations didn’t consider either schools’ student bodies’ accessibility to the games.  

Alden continues, “Not only is this now not happening, the scheduled Apple Cup is at such a ridiculous time that it’s going to be hard for me to make it to the game. If it was played like normal at WSU, I would be very happy about it. I’ll still be trying to go to this upcoming one, but I have no clue if I can.”  

Not only does the location complicate things, but the possible higher price tickets this coming Apple Cup could have due to being hosted at the Seahawk’s and Sounder’s stadium, Lumen Field, also throws students another hurdle to jump. Alden agrees that ticket pricing will complicate things even more.  

“I love the Apple Cup, so this was extra frustrating after the whole Pac-12 situation,” stated Alden.  

This frustration is felt throughout both schools’ students, alumni and fans. Thanks to UW becoming a member of the Big Ten while WSU stays in Pac-12, this makes the next five Apple Cups non-conference games. 

 “I feel like it won’t feel the same,” said UW alumni Lauren.  

The Apple Cup won’t feel the same, like Lauren stated, and many fans, such as UWT student Hokulani Ego, share similar feelings with her. However, although many fans feel disappointed and frustrated about the loss, many like Hokulani have some hope about the future.  

“It will be interesting to see how we play against new teams,” said Hokulani. “It’ll be different.”  

As a student who comes from a Husky-only family and growing up close to U District, the Apple Cup has been a big deal in my life. I share similar feelings with all three interviewees in this article. I’m disappointed about the Apple Cup becoming a non-conference game with a limited time left to exist, yet happy that we at least get a few more years with it. Just like Lauren, I too would absolutely beg for a renewal of the Cup’s contract after 2028 in order to keep this historical rivalry going for future generations, even though it won’t feel the same. In the end, beggars can’t be choosers, and this situation truly embodies that saying.  

But luckily, we’ll be able to play some of our old school rivals in Big Ten, since UCLA and the University of Colorado are also entering the Northeastern group with us. It will indeed be interesting to play against new teams and have to search for a new rival that gives us the same thrill as the Cougars gave us, but times change. Maybe UCLA will become the new Cougars for us? Maybe it will be the Wolverines of the University of Michigan? All we can do now is enjoy the next five Apple Cups and hope for the best in the Big Ten conference.