Presenting nation's top 10 rivalries
Published: Thursday, November 9, 2006
Updated: Sunday, February 14, 2010 23:02
It's rivalry season in college sports, but not all rivalries are created equal. Here are the top 10 rivalries in college athletics.
1) Duke-North Carolina, men's basketball: Eight miles. From Oxford, that won't get you to Millville. But in Tobacco Road, eight miles separates two of the greatest college basketball programs and the fiercest blood feud in college sports. It separates two southern cultures - royal blue from sky blue, outsiders from locals, so-called snobs from the so-called Southern elitists.
The Duke-Carolina institution is amplified by lasting images. It's the Cameron Crazies bouncing on bleachers standing an arm's length away from the likes of Michael Jordan, Brad Daugherty and Rasheed Wallace. It's Dick Vitale screaming himself hoarse from a closet-sized press box atop the rafters. It's Bobby Jones' layup in '77 that capped off an eight-point, 17-second comeback for the Heels, or Jason Capel's half-court buzzer-beater for Duke in '95, or Marvin Williams' 3-point play in the final seconds to clinch a regular season title for the Heels in '05.
The Duke-UNC rivalry transcends the talent gap on the court. Pit the walk-ons from one team against the other's starting five and the game will still likely be decided at the buzzer.
2) Army-Navy, football: The intraservice battle for bragging rights was labeled by former Navy coach Paul John son as "college football at its purest form." Forget the NFL - for many of the seniors, this is their last go-around before being shipped off to a war zone.
The tradition of the Army-Navy rivalry is unsurpassed in college football, primarily because the style of the game has changed little in its 117-year history. Army and Navy still run the archaic wishbone offense with speedy 5-foot-8 quarterbacks and scrappy 240-pound linemen.
The greatest appeal of all is that they're playing solely for the love of the game.
3) Auburn-Alabama, football: The Iron Bowl, established in 1893, engenders a deep-seated hatred that we Yankees simply can't understand. This rivalry ranks ahead of Ohio State-Michigan primarily because it's an intrastate rivalry, which means that both schools are battling all year long for in-state recruits.
Together, Alabama and Auburn have 113 in-state players (Alabama has 71, Auburn has 42).
4) Ohio State-Michigan, football: In the 110-year history of the fierce border war, my favorite game is the 1950 "Snow Bowl," which was played during one of the worst blizzards on Ohio record. The two teams exchanged 45 punts, and Michigan ultimately won 9-3 despite not obtaining a single first down.
This season, the Michigan-OSU rivalry is back to full throttle as an epic No. 1 v. No. 2 showdown seems inevitable.
But the rivalry will never top my list because the two schools are mere border rivals, lacking the familiarity and inherent hatred of intrastate foes. In fact, many Michigan fans say they consider Michigan State or Notre Dame to be their most hated adversary.
5) Boston University-Boston College, men's ice hockey: "The Green Line Rivalry" is hockey's equivalent of Duke-North Carolina. The two schools are separated by a mere four miles, just a few stops on the "B" train of the Boston MTA's green line.
And as hockey programs go, they are two of the most celebrated.
Each year, the rivalry is renewed at Boston's annual Beanpot tournament, which also includes Harvard and Northeastern.
6) Louisville-Kentucky, basketball and football: Few rivalries have provoked more of a media war between two schools than "The Battle for the Bluegrass." It started in 2004, as each school posted tastefully malicious advertisements in the other school's local newspaper. Louisville then infuriated the Lexington natives by running statewide billboard campaigns which read, "Louisville Football, Kentucky's finest," and "Louisville ... We're Miles Ahead."
Kentucky has delivered the most recent blow by engineering a deal with Louisville-based radio station to broadcast Wildcats games over Cardinals games starting in 2007.
Well played, Blue.
7) Harvard-Yale Regatta: Long before the Final Four or BCS - or even proper sewage - there was the Harvard-Yale Regatta. Dating back to 1852, "The Race" is America's oldest collegiate athletic competition and its most venerable college rivalry.
Currently rowed on the Thames River in New London, Conn., the event drew crowds of more than 100,000 people in its heyday, including U.S. presidents like Teddy and Franklin D. Roosevelt.
8) UConn-Tennessee, women's basketball: This heated rivalry remains perhaps the only one in women's sports to gain any national publicity.
Since 1995, Tennessee and Connecticut - led by their long-tenured coaches who combine for almost 1,500 wins - have cast their shadows over women's college basketball. The two powerhouses have played each other 21 times in the past 12 seasons, including four national championship showdowns (UConn has won all four).
9) Minnesota-Minnesota-Duluth, women's ice hockey: In Duluth, Minn., women's hockey is the best diversion from the sub-zero winter temperatures. The Bulldogs brought home three consecutive women's hockey titles from 2001-03. Their arch rivals, Minnesota, captured the next two.
10) Maryland-Johns Hopkins, men's lacrosse: Established in 1895, this is the only the rivalry in college lacrosse that dates back more than 100 years.
Less than 40 miles separate the two schools, and a No.1 ranking is often at stake. Hopkins has won 35 national titles, while Maryland has won 11.