Rivalries are one of the many aspects that give college football its uniqueness.
Aside from the bad blood between Duke and North Carolina on the hardwood and the Red Sox and Yankees on the diamond, the most passionate hatred brews on the college gridiron.
Ohio State fans refer to the Maize and Blue as the school up North. The annual game between Army and Navy has is scheduled on an isolated Saturday at the end of the season. Auburn and Alabama fans would picket one another’s funerals if it was deemed necessary.
Regardless of the teams involved, every rivalry game has a distinct story or an elaborate history that aided its existence. It was an attribute that made the sport so special.
Now, it’s a feature of college football that has become oversaturated and overstressed.
That was never more apparent than this past offseason when UConn head coach Bob Diaco attempted to manufacture a rivalry with UCF, something that has no business existing on a football field. Diaco, who will be entering his second season with the Huskies, has also named the contest the “Civil Conflict,” invested in a traveling trophy for the winner and has a countdown clock set for the October 10th meeting between the two teams.
Last year, UConn’s 37-29 victory over the Knights accounted for half of its win total.
Unfortunately for football fans, Diaco’s recent push to cultivate a competitive relationship with his in-conference foe is part of an unnecessary trend in college football.
When talks of conference expansion swirled back in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s is the primary starting block for the development of unlikely and head-scratching rivalry contests. Most of which reside in the Big Ten.
It’s as if Jim Delany and the conference’s delegates were planning a football Renaissance when Nebraska, and subsequently Maryland and Rutgers, joined the league. There was a rush to find an opponent for each new member to detest.
Rivalry games were almost pushed down the throats of the Big Ten programs like a spoonful of bitter cough syrup. It’s a remedy that has given Nebraska the obligation to take part in a battle with Wisconsin for a Freedom Trophy and a contest against Iowa for the Heroes Trophy.
In other words, it’s a medicine that’s doing more harm than good.
Hatred isn’t something that can be premeditated in the world of sports. It takes several defining moments, a few four-letter words and years of intense and competitive football.
That’s what makes the passion for the Iron Bowl so unique. It has roots that date back to 1893, two fan bases that can’t stand one another and a plethora of unforgettable accomplishments that are tied to that game. It wasn’t something that was conjured up overnight and expected to draw in the big bucks.
Currently, the Big Ten is home to nearly 20 “rivalry” games with 14 of those having some sort of trophy associated to a particular game.
The conference’s fiercest rivalry, Michigan and Ohio State, play for bragging rights.
On a national level, the number of games that are accompanied by the word “rivalry” and are linked to an ill-named, traveling keepsake has grown out of control. It’s beginning to devalue the significance of the meaningful rivalry match-ups that have developed throughout the years.
What Bob Diaco, the Big Ten Conference and everyone else pushing to name every single contest on the college football schedule need to learn is to allow these rivalries to develop.
That’s how USC and Notre Dame became so prominent despite a rather lengthy distance between the two illustrious programs.
It’s time that college football and its talking heads relaxed on the idea of rivalry football. The sport is at an all-time high thanks to the improved play, more interesting playoff format and faster-paced style of offense.
People won’t be picking up the remote on Saturday afternoons to flip to the UConn/UCF game and see who takes home the “Civil Conflict,” traveling trophy.