Everyone Needs a Rival: Assigning An Enemy To Every Division I Track Team
Jesse Squire’s Thursday Morning Trackstravaganza and Field Frenzy runs every Thursday morning at Citius Mag. You can follow him on Twitter at @tracksuperfan.
Every college track team needs a rival, and they need to go head-to-head in a dual meet every year.
Later today I’ll be the PA announcer at one of my favorite meets, the Toledo versus Bowling Green dual meet. It’s a bitter rivalry across all sports and I ran for Bowling Green many years ago, so this is a big deal. Last year’s meet was a classic duel to the pain that saw Toledo go ahead by one point on the final attempt of the triple jump.
Indoors, outdoors, beginning of the season or end, it doesn’t really matter. Everyone needs a rivalry meet.
One reason is that it gets athletes in the right mindset. We get caught up on times and distances way too much in college track, but at the meets that really matter – conference and national championships – marks are immaterial. All you have to do is shut everything out of your head and beat that guy.
Another benefit of the dual meet in general and rivalry meet in particular is that it can take a bunch of athletes and make them into a team. College track has way too much “split-squad” action where teammates often aren’t even competing in the same time zone. Meets like these can help teams achieve e pluribus unum.
A little-known benefit of the rivalry meet is that it can help coaches discover hidden talents. Several years ago Bowling Green turned a long jumper into a jumping triple-threat at their meet with Toledo, and she ended up scoring in both the high and triple jumps at the MAC Championships six weeks later. Back in 1969, Bill Bowerman had five sub-9:00 steeplechasers, all of whom learned the event in order to compete in various dual meets—but two ran it at the NCAAs and scored eight points for the Ducks.
But the best reason to have a rivalry meet is that it captures the best of college athletics. Everyone has that one team they hate, and everyone—students, staff, alumni, community, fans—is on board with that hate. When Toledo won the meet last year, BG head coach Lou Snelling said “this is going to sting for a while”. It matters.
WHO IS YOUR RIVAL?
Below you will find a list of rivalries in college track and field. Some of them exist. Some of them sort of exist, in that the teams are rivals but don’t have an annual dual meet (and why not?) Others don’t exist but should.
The format I followed for assigning rivalries is simple.
They are binary. If I’m you’re chief rival, you should be my chief rival too. I mean, Michigan State’s main football rival is Michigan, but the reverse is not true. We’re avoiding that here.
They are duals. With a very small number of exceptions, these are one-on-one matchups.
Multi-sport rivalries are maintained. This is not always possible, but I tried as much as I could. In some cases I may not even be aware of existing rivalries, such as with smaller institutions that do not play football, but even there I tried to do my homework.
Rivals have similarity. The strongest rivals in all of college sports are Army and Navy, and that’s because those two service academies are very similar to each other and very dissimilar to every other university in the NCAA. I strove for some kind of connection between each matchup: similar campuses, conference foes, regional rivals, or something like that. One important issue is that a womens-only program can only be a rival with another womens-only program.
EXISTING DUAL MEET RIVALRIES
These already exist as annual rivalry meets.
Harvard – Yale
These two teams held the first ever collegiate dual meet back in 1890.
Cal – Stanford
Known as “The Big Meet”, this year will be its 124th running. Harvard-Yale may be the oldest, but this one has been held the most times.
UCLA – USC
They heyday of this meet was from the mid-60s to the late 70s, when it drew at least 10,000 fans every year and once as many as 30,000.
Arizona – Arizona State
Nobody seems to have comprehensive records of the track and field dual meet series but I believe it is now in its 111th year.
Minnesota – Wisconsin
This series began in 1900, died out in the 1970s, and was revived four years ago.
Washington – Washington State
How bitter is this rivalry? The two universities can’t even agree on what the all-time record is.
Akron – Kent State
This rivalry is weak sauce in football, but it might be the best rivalry in mid-major track and field.
Army – Navy
Absolutely, positively the most intense rivalry in college track.
Bowling Green – Toledo
I think I’d rather jump naked onto a huge pile of thumbtacks than lose to Toledo.
Cal Poly – UC Santa Barbara
This clash between Big West teams is called the Blue-Green Rivalry.
Coastal Carolina – UNC Wilmington
This is currently a mens-only meet but the women should get in on it too. It’s called the Battle of the Beaches and the trophy is a mini surfboard.
Detroit – Oakland
Oakland is in the northern ‘burbs while Detroit is in the city. There needs to be some kind of Enimem/8 Mile tie-in.
Illinois State – Indiana State
This meet opens the indoor season for both teams and the men’s/women’s combined score winner takes home the Coughlan-Malloy Cup.
Lafayette – Lehigh
The two eastern Pennsylvania universities are best known for playing the oldest rivalry in college football.
Maine – New Hampshire
The Black Bears and Wildcats meet multiple times a year in track, and their football rivalry dates from 1903.
Marshall – Ohio
This is a recently revived series, usually held in December at Marshall’s new indoor facility.
Montana – Montana State
The state’s only two Division I universities meet several times each season in quadrangular and triangular competition, but the outdoor “Griz-Cat” dual is the one that counts.
Rider – The College of New Jersey
TCNJ is the only non-DI team I’m allowing into this compilation. The two campuses are less than three miles apart and they go head-to-head every year.
Sacramento State – UC Davis
The “Causeway Classic” is part of an all-sports rivalry.
Texas A&M Corpus Christi – Texas Rio Grande Valley
The “South Texas Showdown Presented by NavyArmy Community Credit Union” appears to be the only college dual meet with a sponsorship tie-in.
PROPOSED DUAL MEET RIVALRIES
Now we get into the meets that should exist but don’t. Every team that runs at an NCAA D1 conference championship is listed somewhere below.
Ohio State – Michigan
This was first held in 1907 and had a brief revival from 2008 through 2012.
Indiana – Purdue
This meet was held regularly during the indoor season for most of the last 15 years but disappeared this year.
Michigan State – Notre Dame
This is a track-specific rivalry that was a nearly annual affair into the 1970s. The two universities cofounded the track-only Central Collegiate Conference in 1923.
Penn State – Pittsburgh
Maryland – Rutgers
This is the eastern end of the Big Ten.
Iowa – Iowa State
Illinois – Missouri
Illinois’ natural rival is Northwestern, but the Wildcats do not sponsor track and field.
Nebraska – Oklahoma
This was once one of the big rivalries of the Big Eight and Big Twelve conferences, especially in football.
Kansas – Kansas State
These two hold an indoor triangular with Wichita State, but I’m going for dual meets here.
Texas –Texas A&M
This bitter rivalry needs to be kept alive, and it would make for a heck of a track meet.
Baylor – TCU
Due to the religious connections at each campus, their annual football game is known as The Revivalry.
Colorado – Oklahoma State
This seems like an odd rivalry but it isn’t. The two programs are quite similar in that they are Power 5 programs in the central part of the USA and the lions’ share of their resources go into distance events. They are the only major-conference teams that almost treat track and field as “spring cross country”.
Colorado State – Texas Tech
It’s hard to find a logical rival for Texas Tech, which is the only Big 12 team located at high altitude. Colorado State is the best I could do. I’ve also heard rumors of Colorado State moving to the Big 12.
Clemson – South Carolina
Duke – North Carolina – NC State
This is one of the few three-way rivalries I’m allowing. It was an annual triangular for a very long time.
Florida – Florida State
This was last held in 2002.
Georgia – Georgia Tech
The football rivalry is known as “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate”
Miami (FL) – South Florida
Virginia – Virginia Tech
Arkansas – LSU
I would pay good money to see this meet.
Louisville – Kentucky
Oregon – Tennessee
This seems totally off the wall, but let me explain. Oregon’s traditional rival was Oregon State, but their track programs were eliminated in 1988. The Beavers’ women’s team returned to action a few years ago, but without a men’s team it’s a non-starter. So Oregon is stuck out on its own in the Pac-12 since every other team has a natural rival. Tennessee similarly lacks a traditional rival in the SEC since Vanderbilt is also a women’s only program. You might say that Tennessee is a once-dominant program that has fallen on hard times and is trying to claw its way back to national prominence, but realize that it wasn’t so long ago that you could say the same for Oregon.
Auburn – Alabama
Mississippi State – Ole Miss
Syracuse – U Conn
This is borrowing from an intense basketball rivalry.
Boston College – Boston University
Cincinnati – Miami (OH)
This is a football rivalry that dates to 1888. The two track programs would match up well since Cincinnati de-emphasizes their men’s indoor program and Miami does not sponsor men’s indoor track.
Tulsa – Wichita State
The Shockers just moved to the American Athletic Conference, which Tulsa has long been a part of
Houston – Rice
A traditional crosstown rivalry in most other sports
East Carolina – Wake Forest
Wake Forest doesn’t have a natural ACC rival, and East Carolina is similarly off on its own in the American
Arkansas State – Memphis
A traditional rivalry in most sports
Butler – IUPUI
Both in Indianapolis
Marquette – Milwaukee
Both in Milwaukee and located not too far apart.
Georgetown – Villanova
This would be a really great track and field rivalry, especially in the middle distances
DePaul – Loyola (IL)
Both in Chicago
Brown – Providence
Both in Providence, and both lack obvious in-conference rivals
New Mexico – UTEP
To get from one to the other is a drive straight down I-25
Louisiana Tech – Southern Miss
North Texas – UTSA
Middle Tennessee State – Western Kentucky
The football rivalry is known as “100 Miles of Hate”
Charlotte – UNC Greensboro
Florida International – North Florida
Columbia – Princeton
Dartmouth – Vermont
Cornell – Penn
This was one of the very first dual meet rivalries in college track but it died out years ago
Central Michigan – Eastern Michigan
Western Michigan is a womens-only program, so Central vs Eastern it is
Binghamton – Buffalo
Southern Illinois – SIU Edwardsville
This meet has been held at times
Air Force – BYU
I made this matchup because they are both powerful programs in the Rocky Mountain area and each university is unlike any other in the region.
Utah State – Wyoming
Boise State – Fresno State
Louisiana – Louisiana Monroe
Texas State – Texas Arlington
Appalachian State – Western Carolina
In football these two universities play for The Old Mountain Jug
South Alabama – Troy
The nation’s historically black colleges and universities have especially strong bonds with each other, and with that comes intense but respectful rivalries. Here are my suggestions for track.
Hampton – Howard
Also known as The Real HU
Delaware State – Maryland Eastern Shore
Coppin State – Morgan State
North Carolina Central – North Carolina A&T
Norfolk State – Tennessee State
Florida A&M – Bethune-Cookman
Also known as the Florida Classic
Savannah State – South Carolina State
Alabama A&M – Alabama State
Alcorn State – Jackson State
Their football rivalry is known as The Soul Bowl
Arkansas Pine Bluff – Mississippi Valley State
Grambling State – Prairie View A&M
Southern – Texas Southern
New Orleans – Tulane
Both located in New Orleans
Northern Kentucky – Xavier (OH)
On opposite sides of the Ohio River
Valparaiso – Youngstown State
Suggested meet name: “The Rust Belt Run-Off”
Central Arkansas – Arkansas Little Rock
American – George Washington
Both located in DC
Bucknell – Duquesne
LaSalle – St. Josephs’s
These Philadelphia rivals are just six miles apart
Saint Louis – Southeast Missouri
UMass Amherst – UMass Lowell
Fordham – Wagner
Bryant – Rhode Island
Davidson – High Point
George Mason – Virginia Commonwealth
Farleigh Dickinson – New Jersey Institute of Technology
Kennesaw State – Samford
Belmont – Lipscomb
Maryland Baltimore County – Mount Saint Mary’s
Central Connecticut State – Hartford
Albany – Stony Brook
Northern Arizona – Southern Utah
Northern Colorado – Utah Valley – Weber State
Trying to keep all the high-elevation teams together meant having to create another three-way rivalry
Idaho – Idaho State
Eastern Washington – Portland State
Campbell – Gardner-Webb
UNC Asheville – USC Upstate
Charleston Southern – Winthrop
Liberty – William & Mary
Cal State Northridge – UC Riverside
Cal State Fullerton – Long Beach State – UC Irvine
Again, the logistics required creating a three-way rivalry somewhere in California, and these three Big West teams are all very close to each other
Chicago State – Illinois-Chicago
Holy Cross – Northeastern
Monmouth – St. Peter’s
Canisius – Sacred Heart
Iona – Manhattan
Colgate – St. Francis (PA)
LIU Brooklyn – St. Francis (NY)
Eastern Illinois – Western Illinois
Eastern Kentucky – Morehead State
Furman – Wofford
The Citadel – VMI
Chattanooga – East Tennessee State
Lamar – McNeese State
Northwestern State – Southeast Louisiana
Abilene Christian – Houston Baptist – Incarnate Word
Sam Houston State – Stephen F. Austin
North Dakota – North Dakota State
Oral Roberts – UMKC
Bradley – St. Bonaventure
These two teams are a long way from each other, but are a good matchup because each sponsors a “distance-only” track and field program
Cal State Bakersfield – Grand Canyon
Gonzaga – Seattle
Oregon State – Utah
These are the two women-only teams in the Pac-12
Vanderbilt – West Virginia
I’ve put the Commodores and Mountaineers together because they are the only women-only Power Five conference teams in the east.
Temple – St. John’s
SMU – UCF
The two campuses are fairly far apart but they are both members of the American Athletic Conference.
UAB – FAU
Similarly, these are Conference USA members.
Ball State – IPFW
Both are located in eastern Indiana, about 70 miles apart.
Northern Illinois – Western Michigan
These are the two westernmost members of the Mid-American Conference.
Missouri State – Nebraska Omaha
Nevada – UNLV
The only two DI universities in Nevada
San Diego State – San Jose State
Hawaii – New Mexico State
These two mid-majors aren’t even remotely close to each other, but finding women-only matchups wasn’t easy. Both qualify as “mid-majors” though, so it’s a reasonable matchup.
Georgia State – Georgia Southern
Dayton – Wright State – Cleveland State
Dayton vs Wright State is a logical crosstown rivalry. I only included Cleveland State because they really isn’t any other women’s-only program at their competitive level anywhere nearby.
James Madison – Richmond
Jacksonville – Jacksonville State
Yes, I am aware that these two are not in the same Jacksonville—one in Florida and one in Alabama. But since both are women-only programs, it’s a matchup that should happen.
Murray State – Radford
Delaware – Robert Morris
Loyola (MD) – Towson
The two campuses are less than four miles apart
College of Charleston – Elon
Both CAA members
Pacific – San Diego
Both independents (West Coast Conference for cross country)
Niagara – Quinnipiac
Both MAAC members
Austin Peay – Tennessee Tech
Both OVC members
Mercer – Nicholls State
LATE EDIT: Siena – Marist
Thanks to Saints head coach John Kenworthy, who pointed out our oversight.
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