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What’s so special about the Washington State vs Washington Rivalry?

Every team, no matter the sport, has a rival. Some rivalries come from proximity, others come from a specific event that happened at some point in the past. For these two Apple Cup contenders, some fans might consider it to be ‘just a game’ between the two schools but the true rivalry goes much deeper than that. What this article shows is a list of reasons why the University of Washington has always been overrated. It uses the history of how it started along with integrity issues in sports and even in academic instances. There’s even a small piece about the color choices and the fight song. And obviously I couldn’t forget the price! This may seem like an article written by someone who’s just bitter about not getting accepted to UW but truth is, I did get accepted to UW but I chose WSU. So while I am a little biased, okay a lot, the facts about the history aren’t fake.

Let’s start from the very beginning. While the school says it was founded in 1861 as the Territorial University of Washington, they were teaching mostly school aged children and they didn’t produce their first graduate until 1876… 15 years later. That graduate was a 17-year-old named Clara Antoinette McCarty who received a Bachelor’s Degree in Science. She ended up going to the University of California in the following years where she did post graduate work.

The Territorial University was only able to produce 71 Bachelors Degrees and 21 teaching certificates between 1861 and 1898 and the school was constantly closing. They closed multiple times: 1863, from 1867-1869, in 1874 and then again in 1876 (I assume the fall semester since the first graduate was in June of that year) which is a total of at least 7 semesters. In 1873 (12 years after the founding), Governor Elisha P. Ferry said “It can hardly be said that we have a University except in name.” So yes, while they opened their doors in 1861, to school aged to children mind you, I don’t think it could really be considered a University until 1876 when they had their first graduate with a Bachelor’s degree or maybe even when the woman started working on her degree. Not sure exactly when that was considering the school was closed in 1874…

There have also been scandals concerning the academic integrity and their athletic teams whether it was individuals of a program or the a group of people. A huge incident concerned Medical Schools in the state of Washington. In 1917, UW got the State of Washington to give them sole authority of a medical school. The state government’s monetary contributions gave them the ability to support a new medical school and it wasn’t until 2015 when WSU even had a legal right to open a medical school. That only happened because the WSU President at the time (Elson Floyd) went to Olympia for years to give WSU the right to. Eventually, there was funding to open the school but the fact is, the University of Washington actively blocked WSU from opening a medical school for almost 100 years even when there was significant shortages of physicians in Washington, especially in rural areas.

UW Medicine was also under fire in 2015 during the Marysville-Pilchuck High School Shooting. The school said they had helicopters over the school, ready to transport victims to hospitals when in reality, flight logs show that helicopters were actually about 30 minutes away. Even after the flight logs were released (a month later), the University still didn’t respond to why they had given false information. Five months later, they said that patient privacy prevented the release of flight logs even though no patients were transported on the helicopters.

There have also been instances of athletic teams using illegal recruiting and cheating numerous times which include players, coaches and other members of the staff. Those examples are a little harder to talk about because there have been so many. I have an article linked below that lists about a page and a half worth of athletes or people in the athletic department (in the last 30 years alone) who committed illegal acts while at UW or after graduating.

And then there’s the price tag. For an in-state student at UW, it was $10,127 for tuition alone and for out-of-state students it was $35,508 for the 2018-2019. Both are for the main campus in Seattle. These were new increases that were put in this year. In-state rose 2.2% and out-of-state rose 3%. That was only this year. In 2011, UW increased the in-state tuition by 21.5% from $8,701 to $10,574 and the out-of-state tuition by 10.8% from $25,329 to $28,058. Their strategy for in-state enrollment was to raise tuition but increase financial aid. Many students were against the raise but against a board made up of entrepreneurs and business people, they were never had a winning chance. Students tried to argue and say that a $2,000 increase could mean the difference between staying and dropping out but UW has continued to look at students as sources of income. While WSU hasn’t kept tuition rates the same overtime, they have kept theirs at a more affordable price for in-state and out-of state students. When UW raised in-state prices by 20% between the 2010-2011 and the 2011-2012 school years, WSU went from $8,592 to $9,886 which was still a 15% increase but still significantly more affordable. WSU also offers many more scholarships to out-of-state students. From WSU, I automatically got $10,000 from the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) but from UW, I got nothing as an out-of-state student. Cost of Attendance at UW for out-of-state students is nearly $54,000 while WSU is at $41,000 or $31,000 for students living in the Western US.

One thing that I found kinda funny but still interesting was the fight song and the colors of UW. The fight song is called “Bow Down to Washington” and the colors are purple and gold. The colors were originally red, white and blue (the colors of George Washington) but after a student vote in 1892, they were changed. They are cited to come from Lord Byron’s Poem, “The Destruction of Sennacherib” written in 1815. Now, purple and gold tend to be colors that represent royalty and maybe that could be a coincidence IF the fight song wasn’t “Bow Down to Washington”. The overbearing and self righteous attitude of the university is not hard to see when you consider these seemingly trivial things.

While the rivalry of the schools seems to stem from proximity, the true rivalry comes from the “better than you” attitude that comes from years of dishonesty and mistreatment. The University of Washington alumni use their alma mater almost as a way to boast, some less prominent than others but the attitude is still there. It’s different for Cougars. Pullman is a special place. Along the rolling hills, in the middle of nowhere, stands Washington State University. A school known for its “Cougs help Cougs” mentality. A school whose pride extends beyond a degree. To so many, the school is home. I mentioned this in an earlier article but when you see another Coug in public repping the school, you shout out a “Go Cougs!” and when they respond the same way, there’s a sense of family already there. So yes, while the University of Washington is typically viewed as superior by outsiders, Cougars know the true feeling of being at Wazzu which can only be described as “Home”.




A few years ago, I saw a long article by an anonymous author about the origins of the rivalry and how it has only gotten more and more intense since. If you like to read the other article, here’s the link!



My name is Julia Broghammer, I am from Colorado and I am a student at Washington State University. Growing up, I played many sports including volleyball, basketball, football and soccer. Other than athletics, I was also involved in orchestra where I played viola and conducted for a year! Here at WSU, I am majoring in Sport Management and I hope to work for an NFL Franchise after graduation.
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