Mason: Rivalries make college football fun, regardless of division

first_imgLee Corso picked Wabash to beat DePauw during Saturday’s “College GameDay” on ESPN. So did Kirk Herbstreit.Both ended up being wrong in picking the winner of the annual Monon Bell Classic.Wait, the what?I was a bit surprised to see this Division III game as one of the weekend’s matchups predicted by the two analysts. If not for a friend who attends DePauw in Greencastle, Ind., I would never have heard of either school, let alone their historic rivalry.It helped, I guess, that ESPN’s founder, Bill Rasmussen, was a graduate of DePauw in the 1950s. But the fact is the Monon Bell was an integral part of these schools’ history long before the sports network was founded: The Tigers and Little Giants (no joke) have been battling each other in this yearly rivalry for 115 games.Many of you out there probably don’t give a rat’s behind about these two small schools in Indiana — or their precious bell, for that matter. Their combined student bodies — just over 3,200 — could fit comfortably into Wisconsin’s student section.Yet this game mirrored the one we saw unfold at Camp Randall Stadium this Saturday in more ways than you probably think.For starters, the Border Battle game between Wisconsin and Minnesota was first played in 1890 — the same year DePauw and the all-male Wabash College began their storied rivalry. However, the schools have not always battled for the trophies they currently do. Paul Bunyan’s Axe wasn’t introduced until 1948, and the 300-pound Monon Bell became a part of the Classic in 1932.As you could come to expect from a rivalry game — or games — no team has dominated either series. Following its win this weekend, DePauw, led by quarterback Spud Dick (seriously) on Saturday, is now tied with Wabash at 53 wins apiece, with the two also tying nine times. After Saturday’s victory, the Badgers pulled closer to the Gophers in the overall record, which currently stands at 59-51-8 in favor of Minnesota.Throw all these factors together, and you begin to see exactly what a rivalry game means for a school — whether it has an enrollment of 900 or more than 40,000.Take the example of DePauw and Wabash. Obviously, kids don’t attend either school with the primary goal of playing football or basketball on a big stage. And the students at these schools don’t typically plan their weekends around their team’s game. In all reality, you’re usually hard-pressed to find many students on any D-III campus who could name a single player on the football team.But come rivalry weekend, the students, athletes and faculty alike all have something to rally around: winning the Bell, in this case. (Ironically, a bell is used as the trophy for five different rivalry games. But no prize may be cooler than the Platypus Trophy, given to the winner of Oregon and Oregon State.)It doesn’t matter whether a student has attended every game that year or if it’s his or her first: The rivalry brings out the best in everyone.And weirdly enough, it sometimes doesn’t even matter if it’s your team’s 10th win of the season or its first and only. If you beat your rival, in some instances, the season is not lost. Look no further than another historic Big Ten rivalry: Ohio State and Michigan. Despite going 11-2 and 9-4 in his final two seasons as Wolverines head coach, Lloyd Carr was kicked to the curb in part because he couldn’t beat the Buckeyes, losing to Jim Tressel and Co. in his last four years.On the flip side, Wisconsin’s recent victory over Minnesota did wonders for the confidence — and bowl hopes — of Bret Bielema’s squad. A Big Ten loss always hurts, but losing to a rival is never pretty.That’s why Saturday’s scene on the field was a beautiful one for Wisconsinites — the entire Badger team, running around Camp Randall with Paul Bunyan’s Axe safely in their possession for the fifth straight year. Kind of, sort of, like the DePauw players hoisting the Monon Bell at Hollett Little Giant Stadium.UW fans can only hope their team doesn’t suffer a letdown against another hated rival this Saturday: the Cal Poly Mustangs.Tyler is a senior majoring in journalism. Let him know your thoughts on Saturday’s rivalry game — either Wisconsin-Minnesota or DePauw-Wabash — at [email protected]last_img

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