A good rivalry is fun for everyone, except maybe the team that loses the game.
Years ago, Hillsboro and Marion high schools were big rivals. By proximity alone, they still are to some extent, but I’m not sure it’s the same as it was 30-40 years ago.
Forty years ago, before summer camps and summer leagues existed, kids from Hillsboro and Marion rarely saw each other except on Friday nights in fall and Tuesdays or Fridays in winter. Games were all about bragging rights.
Nowadays, kids see each other in summer ball and find out that the kids from the other town aren’t all bad. In fact, some become good friends.
A healthy rivalry doesn’t have to result in bad blood. A healthy rivalry exists when players, coaches and fans respect the opponents. It also helps when both teams are competitive, and each team knows it will get its opponent’s best shot.
Tabor and Bethel have been rivals for years, but depending on the sport, I’m not sure how intense the rivalry is right now. It’s likely more of a rivalry in some sports than others.
A cynic might say, “Just how intense a rivalry can two peace-loving Mennonite schools have?” Answer? You’d be surprised.
K-State and KU are in-state rivals, but K-State has dominated KU in football recently, while KU has returned the favor in basketball. Still, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t enjoy or pay attention to the outcome of those sporting events.
Then there’s Wichita State and KU, and Wichita State and Kansas State in men’s basketball. Well, maybe not. Those are rivalries in name only because the schools don’t schedule games against each other.
The obvious question is: Why not?
Why is it that Iowa and Iowa State regularly play Drake and Northern Iowa? Contrary to popular opinion, it’s not mandated by the Iowa Legislature, according to Paul Suellentrop of The Wichita Eagle.
While those schools may not always play happily, they do it. Suellentrop said, “Apparently they’ve figured it makes sense from a travel, academic and financial standpoint, not to mention fans enjoy the games.
“The same goes for Nebraska, where the Huskers play Creighton regularly in volleyball, men’s basketball and women’s basketball with no law requiring it,” writes Suellentrop.
On one occasion, No. 15 Northern Iowa defeated No. 12 Iowa State 3-0 in a volleyball match in front of 6,490 fans in Cedar Falls. “Why would schools not want that experience?” asked Suellentrop.
The three Division I in-state schools in Kansas will play each other in some sports, but men’s basketball isn’t one of them.
The reason is economics. Why should KU play Wichita State when they can play a home game in front of a sellout crowd against an out-of-state cupcake? Granted, KU plays some top-notch opponents in its nonconference schedule, but there are always some opponents that are merely sacrificial lambs.
Who do you think KU and KSU fans would enjoy seeing their team play more—WSU or Towson (nothing personal against Towson)? Wichita State would likely prefer a home-and-home series, while KU and KSU would prefer at least two home games to one away game.
The baseball programs of all three state schools have figured out that it make sense to play each other, and that was true even when Wichita State had the dominant program.
Meanwhile, the men’s basketball programs dance around the issue.
What do KU and KSU have to lose should they play and lose a game to WSU on occasion? About all they have to lose is their pride.
Maybe KU doesn’t want to risk having its pride hurt. But can a possible loss to Wichita State be that much more devastating than losses to Davidson and Northern Iowa, both of which happened in recent years? In spite of those losses, no one denies that KU is one of the premier basketball programs in the nation.
Would Wichita State be able to beat KU or KSU in men’s basketball? Who knows?
Speaking purely as a sports fan, wouldn’t it be fun to find out?