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Something New, Something Better

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December 4, 2008
Gary Pine
It’s over. It’s done. Finished. Ended and retired.

The Azusa Pacific-Biola rivalry.

What it once was, it is no more. Maybe it’s just on a hiatus, but from the best anyone can tell, the better days of the Azusa Pacific-Biola dual are in the rear-view mirror. It still may have some social status, for a few more days, and many students will still make it the only athletic contest they witness in a year, but it’s time they face the truth.

Biola and Azusa Pacific are defunct as far as arch-rivals go.

Time has moved on and so have universities and more specifically so too have athletic programs. It’s a new era. No longer do Azusa Pacific and Biola meet for GSAC supremacy in any sport (not that they ever really did but there was a 6-year span from about 1993 to 1999 that the 2 schools did have some pretty intense men’s basketball battles, but Azusa Pacific won 13 of 14 of them).

So here is to introducing a new rivalry. One the makes more sense. One that has more commonalities than a family reunion, because not only does it cross marital and church lines, but it zigzags across employment lines as well. It’s a rivalry that will feature intensity in every sport, not just men’s basketball. The competition will extend beyond a battle for a conference crown and have national championship implications written all over it like no other match-up in the NAIA’s premier conference, the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC).

And dare we say, perhaps a Directors’ Cup will be at stake as well?

Here’s to Azusa Pacific and California Baptist – the newest, the best, the most intriguing collegiate rivalry on the west coast this side of USC-UCLA.

Surprised? Doesn’t make a lot of sense? Ponder the following and see if you wouldn’t agree that Azusa Pacific-California Baptist is more delectable than any offering of Eagle stew.

First off, the 2 institutions exchange employees and families like stock on Wall Street – back in the good days. Names like Hamlett, Bishop, Rutter, McDaniel, Bonner, Reinsch, Fung, Drake, Dacus, Hubert, Kennedy and many more are all intertwined between California Baptist and Azusa Pacific.

And then there is the athletic piece.

Azusa Pacific is king of the NAIA, having captured 4 consecutive Directors’ Cups.

(Educational note to the “CBU Crazies,” who to the chagrin of their administrators, unknowingly embarrassed the university last year by chanting “What’s a Directors’ Cup”: The Directors’ Cup is the most prestigious national intercollegiate award annually given to the top athletic programs of NCAA Divisions I, II and III and NAIA based on postseason performances.)

Azusa Pacific has 4 sparkling Waterford Crystals in its Hall of Champions to show for its athletic supremacy in which Cougars racked up Cup points in record-setting fashion.

Since 1980, Azusa Pacific has won 31 NAIA national championships, third most in the 72-year history of the NAIA. In the past 18 years, the Cougars have collected national championship trophies like a farmer’s wife gathers eggs in the hen house – 23 to be exact.

Since 2000, Azusa Pacific has expanded its athletic facilities, beginning with the spectacular Felix Event Center, the crown jewel of indoor facilities in the NAIA. In the years to follow the university has added the best soccer pitch in the GSAC and a picturesque softball complex.

Over the past 2 decades, Azusa Pacific has expanded its academic program to become one of the broadest educational institutions in the Coalition of Christian Colleges and Universities, a feature that has enhanced the athletic program’s ability to attract top-notch student-athletes.

Yet with lightening-like speed here comes California Baptist in that aforementioned rear-view mirror, zipping by Biola and many other GSAC schools. These Lancers are breathing down the Cougars’ collective necks with an athletic program that is on the move, one that doesn’t live life back in the days of the district, but rather in the futuristic idea of direct qualification.

Lancers want to be Cougars. For instance, the primary desire of the “CBU Crazies,” those passionate Lancer fans donned in t-shirts that resemble a color closer to vomit than gold, is to out-perform, out-yell, and out-obnoxious Azusa Pacific’s “Blackout” section, a band of Cougar students who have proven that it is impossible to ruin the color of black. In fact, CBU students are prepared to take a page from the Biola-Azusa Pacific book on rivalry and wear Blackout t-shirts when they invade the Azusa Pacific campus Saturday. Talk about your wolf in sheep’s clothing.

Last year, California Baptist finished fifth in the Directors’ Cup, nearly 300 points behind the champion Cougars, but nonetheless it was the best showing ever by the Lancer athletic program.

And this year, CBU is likely to close the gap. This week alone Azusa Pacific and California Baptist were together at the NAIA championship tournaments for women’s soccer and women’s volleyball. They’re likely to be together again next spring at the NAIA women’s swimming and diving championships, and there’s a real good chance that for the third time in the past 4 years they’ll be dancing together at the NAIA men’s basketball tournament in Kansas City, Mo., during the madness that is March.

California Baptist is coming off its best men’s soccer season in school history. Lancer softball has been the NAIA standard-bearer the past 6 years, and CBU baseball is right there with Cougar baseball battling pitch-for-pitch for the GSAC championship over the past 3 seasons.

The Lancers are building quality facilities too. Just look at their softball, baseball and aquatics venues – all something to be proud of.

Indeed, here comes California Baptist.

And here come the Lancers to the Canyon City this Saturday with the NAIA’s No. 1-ranked men’s basketball team. Earlier this week, the 12-man NAIA rating committee tabbed the 8-0 Lancers the top-ranked team in the nation, a first in the program history and only the third time ever a GSAC school got top billing in the NAIA basketball polls (Azusa Pacific was the first in 1993 and did it again in 2006).

California Baptist is coming to the Felix Event Center to tip off Azusa Pacific’s GSAC season. It’s an early-season calling, perhaps too early for either team, but nonetheless one that is so enticing that it has all the makings to catapult a newly-born rivalry into legendary proportions

The Lancers have had this date circled for some time. It was Azusa Pacific, the owner of a record 13 GSAC basketball titles, that cost California Baptist its first-ever GSAC championship last year, first by rallying from 12 down to beat the No. 14-ranked Lancers, 73-72, in Riverside on a last-minute shot, and then by rallying from 6 down in the final 35 seconds to force overtime and beat the Lancers, 85-81, in Azusa.

The 2 schools compete for more than just GSAC or NAIA championships. They compete for students as well. Over the past 10 years, more and more prospective Southern California high school students have narrowed their final college choices down to Azusa Pacific and California Baptist, and 3 years ago more chose to live in Riverside than in Azusa. And like in any good rivalry, Azusa Pacific answered in the subsequent years.

So here comes the new rivalry – Azusa Pacific vs. California Baptist – one that pits athletic prowess at the good-natured forefront rather than academic or spiritual supremacy.