Pretty much the only reason college sports are as popular as they are is that they offer tradition, loyalty, and rivalries that professional sports simply cannot. However, if you thought tradition, loyalty, and rivalries could trump the power and influence of money, well, you were sorely mistaken. As we’ve seen in recent years, university presidents and boards of trustees all across America have no problem throwing tradition out the window and switching athletic conference if it means their schools and rake in more cash. And while this is understandable—a few million bucks pays a lot of professors’ salaries—it’s also unfortunate because the rivalries we love most are being killed off one by one.
Which rivalries, you ask? Well, keep on clicking to find out.
The state of Florida has three major football programs that have won National Championships within the last 13 years. Think about that for a second. The only other state that can come close to that level of football pedigree is Alabama, which has had two programs win National Championships in that same span.
I mention this fact because you would think this kind of history and tradition would make the in-state rivalries sacred and untouchable. But you would be wrong. While Florida, Florida State, and Miami used to play each other every year, the rivalry between Florida and Miami kicked the bucket back in 1987 when the SEC moved to an 8-game conference schedule. At that time, Florida decided they only had room on their schedule for one of their in-state rivals, and they chose Florida State. So in 1988, for the first time since 1936, there was no showdown between the Hurricanes and Gators, and there have been only 5 meetings since.
And you thought this rivalry-killing conference realignment phenomenon was a recent development.
The University of Pittsburgh and University of West Virginia are only 75 miles apart down I-79. That's why they call this one "The Backyard Brawl." Or anyway, that's why they used to call it that. Now they call it "dead." Because you see, after 104 meetings from 1895 to 2011—seriously, 1895 to 2011—WVU ended the rivalry by moving to the Big 12 this season.
It makes sense, though. Why would you want to continue a century long tradition against a natural, regional rival, when you could play Iowa State instead?
(Just to be clear, I was being sarcastic there.)
8. Pitt-West Virginia
Ah yes, here is the latest rivalry lost thanks to major conference realignments. While this rivalry is obviously a bit one-sided—Maryland fans are way more into it than Duke fans, who pretty much only pay attention to North Carolina—that's okay. It's still a good one. In fact, to outsiders, rivalries in which one side cares more than the other can be more fun. After all, nothing burns more than your rival telling you they don't consider you a challenge, and that only makes you more angry and full of contempt. And such was the case with Maryland.
But now that the Terps are moving to the inappropriately named Big 10 (there are now 14 teams), Maryland's history with Duke is now scheduled to end in 2014. The Blue Devils may not care, but sports fans in Maryland sure will.
This rivalry dated back to 1894, but it didn't really get competitive until the 1960s. Suddenly, in that decade, the Razorbacks got their act together, and the meeting between these two schools decided the Southwest Conference Champions every year. In fact, from 1961 to 1970, they met 6 times while both were ranked in the top 10, and in 1969 they played what some people called "the Game of the Century" (though there are a lot of those).
Unfortunately, this rivalry ended in 1991 when the Razorbacks joined the SEC to get beat up on by Alabama and company. Since then, the teams have played just 4 times...and, yeah, pretty much nobody cares.
Until 1996, these two legendary football programs had met 71 consecutive times—usually on Thanksgiving Day. Without a doubt, the heyday of this rivalry was from 1971 to 1988. During that the teams met 19 times, and for 15 of those games both teams were ranked in the top 10.
Interestingly, this rivalry suffered a slow death. It began when the Big 8 became the Big 12 in 1996, which put Nebraska in the North division and Oklahoma in the South division. So at that point, they started playing each other only every other year. Then in 2010, the Huskers moved to the Big 10, ending the rivalry altogether and leading the way for the exits of Missouri and Texas A&M.
Speaking of Missouri...
This rivalry, known as "The Border War," was born out of an actual war between residents of these two states. Seriously. That alone should explain the level of hostility this rivalry engendered.
Anyway, from 1891 on, the Jayhawks and Tigers played each other 120 times in football and 267 times in basketball. However, when Missouri decided to bolt from the Big 12 and join the SEC for the 2012-13 academic year, they pretty much ended their rivalry with Kansas.
It's okay, though, because I'm sure Alabama will come to consider Missouri as big a rival as Auburn or LSU.
(Again, more sarcasm.)
If you want to understand the seriousness of this rivalry, all you need to do is have a look at the lyrics to each school's respective fight songs.
Here is the Texas Longhorns' Fight Song:
Texas Fight, Texas Fight,
And it's goodbye to A&M.
Texas Fight, Texas Fight,
And we'll put over one more win.
Texas Fight, Texas Fight,
For it's Texas that we love best.
Hail, Hail, The gang's all here,
And it's good-bye to all the rest!And here is the Texas A&M Fight Song:
Rough, Tough, real stuff Texas A&M
Good bye to texas university
So long to the orange and the white
Good luck to dear old Texas Aggies
They are the boys who show the real old fight
'the eyes of Texas are upon you'That's right. Both schools' fight songs reference the other one directly. And yet, this season, the Aggies left the Big 12 to join the SEC. So now nobody's fight song makes any sense.
3. Texas-Texas A&M
Technically speaking, the end of this rivalry isn't the result of realignment, since Notre Dame hasn't officially joined a conference. However, now that Notre Dame has agreed to play 5 games a year against ACC teams starting in 2015, they felt they simply had to drop one of their big rivalries. And for some reason they determined that their annual game Stanford was more important than their annual game against the Michigan. (Hint: it has to do with who they are more likely to beat on a regular basis.) So there are only 2 more games between the Wolverines and Fighting Irish, two of the most successful and famous programs in the history of college sports.
2. Michigan-Notre Dame
This rivalry doesn't have nearly the history of some of the others on this list. It doesn't span three centuries, and it never entailed actual guerrilla warfare. However, it has been one of the best 2 or 3 rivalries in college basketball for over 30 years (since the advent of the Big East back in 1979), and it's coming to a sad end after this season, because the Orange are moving to the ACC on July 1, 2013. While that will make the ACC the undisputed college basketball powerhouse (Duke, UNC, and Syracuse?), it will end yet another great college rivalry.
So no, nothing is sacred.
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