The Apple Cup is a game that has two very different meanings to two very different programs.
To Washington State Cougar fans, the game is everything. Year in and year out, all the Cougar faithful want to do is beat the University of Washington. This can be noted by the random “F the Huskies” chants at meaningless non-conference home games.
On the other end of the spectrum, Washington Husky fans understand that it’s a rivalry game but beyond that they don’t really care. Husky fans dislike The University of Oregon more than they dislike Wazzu. They look at the Cougs like a little brother that they know they are going to beat.
For the last three years this game has decided who will win the Pac-12 North and move onward to the Pac-12 championship game. In these games, the Dawgs have laid the smack down on the Cougs.
With the exception of the game last Friday, the Huskies have won the other two contests in blowout fashion.
To understand why the programs and fan bases have such different perceptions on the game, it is important to understand where the two schools are located.
You can find UW right in the heart of North Seattle. It is a big city school with a big city atmosphere. If you attend UW there are millions of things to do beyond college life. There are concerts, museums, aquariums, Seahawk games, etc. If you don’t want to be apart of campus life, you don’t have to. You can just go to class, leave campus, and get on with your day.
This is the exact opposite of WSU.
WSU is located in Pullman, Wash., which is a city in the middle of nowhere. (I am a WSU graduate, so sorry to any Cougs out there who think that Pullman qualifies as a real city).
Most students have to drive down a sketchy two-lane highway for two to three hours just to reach WSU’s campus.
Once you reach the town you instantly realize you have entered Cougar country. Pullman is one of the purest examples of a college town in America. There is literally a Cougar flag flying on every corner. At WSU you have no choice but to be a part of the campus life. If it wasn’t for the college, Pullman would just be a small wheat farming community. The college is the town.
The next important element to understand in this rivalry is the difference between the two school’s reputations.
UW is an elite school and is a top 100 university in the country. It is not the same caliber as Harvard, Stanford, or Yale, but it is not far off. In U.S. News’s “Top 100 college list in America” UW is ranked as the 59th best school in the country.
UW has one of the most prestigious medical schools in the U.S and countless other programs that are nationally recognized.
UW students are kids who put in four hard years of work in high school and thought about their future ahead of time. Many students go to UW strictly for academic purposes, and not all the other shenanigans that are associated with college life.
And then there’s WSU.
Cougar students are known for having a vibrant social life. If that wasn’t clear enough than here is a famous WSU quote: “Win or lose, Cougs booze.”
WSU is one hell of a party school. Walk down Greek row on a Friday night and you will see just about everything. There are fights, girls wearing nearly nothing in frigid weather, fire explosions, and always that one random guy freestyle rapping.
One thing is for sure: Cougs know how to have fun and it is a great community to be a part of.
WSU does have some elite programs such as the school of communications and the veterinary school; however, they are most well-known for partying.
The next difference between the schools is the two head football coaches.
Chris Peterson is a laid back and clean-cut guy. He is the type of person you hope your daughter brings home. Peterson has that perfectly combed hair, an extremely nice smile, and an all-american look. He seems like the guy you would invite out for a glass of red wine and discuss some good old-fashioned climate change.
He has built winning programs at Boise State and UW with no controversy. Wherever he goes, he keeps the formula simple: He just wins.
WSU’s head coach Mike Leach might be the real-life world’s most interesting man. Leach is rumored to sleep with a pirate sword next to his bed.
His appearance is scruffy, oddly in shape for not being in shape, and his favorite piece of clothing is a WSU hooded sweatshirt. Furthermore, he has the best sound bites of any other college football coach. This guy seriously talks about pirates, politics, the shovel pass, and everything else in between. He is the type of dude you would invite over for a six-pack of beer and go shoot some guns.
He has built winning programs at Texas Tech and WSU with controversy following him all of the way. At his previous job, he was fired for locking a player in a closet. He has a much different formula and strategy than Peterson, but he is also a winner.
However, the biggest difference between the two schools is their passion for the actual game.
When walking around Seattle (I am born and raised in Seattle), Husky fans will actually say, “Hey, the Cougs are looking nice this year.” You can always find someone wearing crimson and grey on UW’s campus with no repercussions. Husky fans are unconcerned with this rivalry. They want to win, but they don’t need to win.
This would never fly as a Cougs fan.
Cougar fans want to beat the Huskies 366 days of the year. Yes, they want it that bad.
If someone is bold enough to wear purple and gold in Pullman, they will be continuously yelled at. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little girl, or an old man; if they are wearing purple and gold, they are enemy. This game is Christmas, Thanksgiving, and New Years all wrapped into one day for the Cougs faithful. The Apple Cup is the only thing that matters.
Regardless of who you cheer for, it’s nice to see some good college football being played in Washington State. This game has finally meant something in the CFB landscape over the last couple of years. This is a vast improvement from the 2008 matchup where both teams had a combined one win before the game.
Both programs have come a long way.