Tradition Has Graduated

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There are many things people love about sports.  The commitment, the competition and the excitement it brings are just a few that come to mind. Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of sports is tradition. Tradition fuels rivalries and provides for some of the greatest matchups in the history of sports.  Yankees-Red Sox, Lakers-Celtics, Packers-Vikings, and North Carolina-Duke are some of the rivalries we have remaining today. Some of the most historic rivalries, though, may never occur again in the modern sports era.

Midwesterners have had to suffer through the recent dismantling of the Big XII as some of the most historic rivalries have died through conference realignment. The departure of Nebraska and Missouri to the Big 10 and SEC, respectively, have ended some of the longest standing rivalries in American sports. Kansas and Nebraska, two of the oldest programs in college football first played in 1892.  It was the longest uninterrupted rivalry in collegiate athletics. They played annually from 1906 to 2010, making it the 2nd most played college football series ever, surpassed only by Wisconsin and Minnesota. Kansas also held the 3rd longest series with bitter rival Missouri, first playing in 1891, and every season since the inaugural Border Showdown. The rivalry held roots dating back to the Civil War when the free state Kansas “Jayhawkers” and pro-slavery “Bushwhackers” from Missouri actually fought during the Civil War. The rivalry carried over to the hardwood, providing one of the most entertaining and bitter rivalries in college basketball.

The East Coast has also been rocked by the recent realignment, with the Big East seeing storied programs Syracuse, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Rutgers leaving for presumably greener pastures, with UConn and Louisville appearing primed to leave next. This could mark the end of the excitement of Big East basketball, which has been arguably the best conference for basketball over the past decade.   The glory days of the Big East tournament are coming to a close, which is perhaps the saddest part of it all.

Recent events in collegiate athletics are beginning to ruin college athletics. It’s naïve to think that money wouldn’t be the driving force in collegiate athletics, but the sad truth is that is.  The lifeblood of collegiate athletics has been these storied rivalries, but the driving force is the strength of the conference’s TV deals and the depths of their pockets. We may never see another 6 overtime thriller between two power-house Big East rivals like we did in the 2009 Big East quarterfinals between UConn and Syracuse. We will likely never see another Border Showdown between Mizzou and Kansas where National Title hopes are on the line, like we did in 2007. And with the future of the ACC uncertain with the departure of Maryland, who knows what will happen to rivalries like UNC-Duke.

It may be difficult for fans in certain parts of the country to understand the plight of fans in the Big XII and Big East alike. Just imagine if Michigan-Ohio State no longer played each other, or if any of the storied SEC rivalries like Auburn-Alabama or  Florida-Georgia were no more. Collegiate athletics has started down a slippery slop and it is beginning to seem like fans should be prepared for anything at this point, as tradition and proximity have been thrown completely out the window. And if you, the reader, still do not have a problem with all of this conference shift shenanigans, just ask yourself this one question: would a sensible person put San Diego State in the Big East?

Tommy Randolph

Edited By: Drew Agnello

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