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?
Edited By: Drew Agnello
As the college lacrosse season approaches the meat of its schedule, three teams have proven themselves to be legitimate contenders for the national title: Virginia, Cornell and Johns Hopkins. Teams that have been shaky at points or have holes to fill make up the second tier as possible title contenders.
Virginia can outright run. Watching the Wahoos’ game against Syracuse on Sunday was epic. The rivalry has developed over time and is consistently the most exciting regular season game every year. Rob Fortunato proved he could step into the void in goal left by Adam Ghitelman, who graduated last year. He made all the necessary saves, although he struggled at points. Faceoff man Ryan Benincasa dominated winning 20 of 28 at the x. Virginia can score with anyone and defend well enough to get to championship weekend.
Led by a strong senior group on attack, Cornell is another team that will outscore just about anyone. Cornell leads the country in scoring. Senior Rob Pannell finished second in the Tewaaraton voting. The Tewaaraton Trophy is the Heisman Trophy of college lacrosse. Even with Pannell’s recent injury, Cornell still has Steve Mock, one of the country’s best finishers, and Connor English, who is a very shifty player. Cornell’s strength on offense makes up for some minor deficiencies they have on the defensive end.
Johns Hopkins has played close games in most of its early schedule. Towson was close at half and squeaked out victories against Delaware, Siena and Princeton. Manhattan was the only team not to put up a fight, losing 11-0 on Tuesday. Pierce Bassett for the Blue Jays was a second team all-American last season in goal, and has been the key to Hopkins’ success. Bassett has only allowed more than six goals in only one game and the Blue Jay defense is second only behind Notre Dame in scoring defense. But it’s not like they can’t score; Johns Hopkins still averages ten goals per game and wins by five.
The second tier of teams includes teams with talent but with bad losses like Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Denver. Other teams have no bad losses or losses at all, but lack that key victory that would put them into the conversation with UVA, Cornell, and Hopkins. Maryland, UMass, Fairfield and Yale fit into that category. The final group is of the teams like Duke, Ohio State and Villanova who have tough schedules and can’t seem to find a win against the highly ranked teams. All of these teams have holes on either offense or defense, or could lack the consistency to stay at the top.
The Face-Off Classic takes place this weekend in Baltimore in which UVA will play Cornell as the marquee game. The second half of the season will be a dog fight to see who can make the tournament. The races will be the toughest in the CAA and the ECAC; both conferences have a large group of high quality. The real question for the rest of the season is if the top tier will continue to reign over college lacrosse, and if anyone, who will challenge them?