Gary Doran

A Brief History of the Duel in the Desert


With this being rivalry week, ASU Devils Den decided to go back and look at all the games between ASU and UofA back to the days when both teams were playing in the Border Conference starting way back in 1931. Over those years, a total of 79 games were played between the two Arizona schools with the wins and losses all even at 39-39-1. Now that’s a rivalry!

Here’s a breakdown by conference:

In the Border Conference (1931-1961) – 25 rivalry games, (no games played 38-39-40-43-44-45)
In the WAC (1962-1977) – 16 rivalry games
In the Pac-10 (1978-2010) – 33 rivalry games
In the Pac-12 (2011-Present) – 5 rivalry games
Total: 79 rivalry games

Which Team Had the Better Season Record for the Rivalry Game


ASU played in the rivalry game when their season record was either the same or better than UofA in roughly two out of every three of the contests.  Unfortunately, the Devils have not won two-thirds of the games.

Wins-Losses by Conference Affiliation (the numbers are wins-losses by ASU)


The years in the WAC were sure good for the Devils, whereas it’s been a little bumpy since joining the Pac. It’s interesting that the Devils are under .500 at home against Arizona in the rivalry game since joining the Pac-10/12. Darn that streak.  It’s interesting that their winning percentage in either Tempe or Tucson is somewhat the same during the Pac-10/12 era, (Tempe: 47% vs. Tucson: 45%).

Team with the Better Season Record Going into the Game (numbers are wins-losses by ASU)


When UofA had the better overall record for the year, they won the rivalry games almost 90-percent of the time, whereas when ASU had the better overall record, they won roughly 77-percent of the rivalry games.  Another way to say this is that when UofA had the better season record, ASU only won three of the rivalry games, whereas the Wildcat won ten games when ASU had the better season record.

Team with Better Win-Loss Better Record by Where the Game was Played


ASU has only won one game at Sun Devil Stadium when UofA has the better season record. Even though six of the losses happened during the early days during Border Conference play, the Devils were only 1-5 in Pac-10/12 play in Sun Devil Stadium when UofA had the better season record.

By Decade (numbers are wins-losses by ASU)


In the early days of the Border Conference, the Devils, (whoops the Bulldogs back then) went two decades before they won a game in Tucson, and by then they had changed to being the Sun Devils. More recently, the decade of the 80’s was not a fond time for many ASU fans either.   Now since the turn of the century, ASU is 5-3 in both Tempe and Tucson.  In fact they are 7-6 in both cities since the end of the 1980s.  That’s the kind of record that makes for a good strong rivalry.

Personal History of the Rivalry Game

It’s always fun to recount your own experiences in the heated games between ASU and UofA.  My time with these games goes back to the 1960’s when ASU began to dominate for a while.  I thought I’d post three of my most memorable games:

Most Satisfying:  1991 in Tucson (7-6)  ASU had no business winning that game, but put in a gritty effort

Most Exciting: 1992: in Tempe (37-14) That one ended “the streak”, enough said!

Most Disappointing: 1987 in Tempe (24-24)  Had already started to celebrate, and then the mishandled snap on a punt to seal the game changed it all

What are the games that stand out for you in this rivalry and why?  Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or in the comments below.

About Gary Doran

Gary Doran

Gary graduated from ASU many years ago. After careers working in banking, finance and the financial administration of academic research funding, he is now interested in utilizing his passion for numbers towards two things he thoroughly loves; Arizona State University and college football. He is looking forward to finding the “stories” buried within the numbers on a football stat sheet. He has gone to ASU football games all the way back to the days of Frank Kush and the WAC. He has been married to an amazing ASU graduate for almost forty years, and they currently live in Ventura, CA. Although this may disqualify him from talking football, he and his wife enjoy the practice of yoga and dancing the Argentine Tango. Ole!

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