Sports Rivalries Bring Out the Best in SU Athletes
What would sports be without rivals? Susquehanna University has a number of rival athletics competitions that have turned into traditions and always bring the biggest and loudest crowds into the stands. The oldest rivalry tradition in Susquehanna sports history is the Goal Post Game against Juniata College. “It’s the big one, the most traditional,” says Steve Briggs, head coach of Susquehanna football.
The prize in the competition is an actual piece of goal post taken from Susquehanna’s old University Field by Juniata fans following their team’s 12–7 upset of the Crusaders in 1952. That season was the last coached at Susquehanna by the legendary Amos Alonzo Stagg Sr., the “Grand Old Man of Football.” The 1953 season then started the Goal Post Game tradition in which each team would defend the six-foot- tall piece of wood against its rival.
This year marked the 50th all-time Goal Post Game, and the Crusaders defended the trophy with a 43–13 triumph at Juniata on Sept. 12. SU now leads the all-time Goal-Post series, 26–23–1. “We’ve done a nice job keeping it,” Briggs says.
As fierce as the Juniata games can be, SU’s most recognized athletics rival is probably nearby Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa. The Warriors and the Crusaders engage in four traditional battles for trophies, titles and bragging rights.
Over the past 17 years, the two football teams have waged the Stagg Hat Game. The trophy is Stagg Sr.’s actual fedora, which was bronzed and eventually given to the school as a gift. The hat stood in a trophy case for some time before the rivalry game was born in 1993.
The Crusaders fell to the Warriors, 37–23, in this year’s tilt and trail the all-time Stagg-Hat series, 5–12. The game will now go on hiatus for the foreseeable future, as Susquehanna’s switch to the Centennial Conference next year allows for just one non-conference game (against Juniata). “We want it back,” says Briggs. “Hopefully, we have a chance again in the near future.”
Susquehanna men’s soccer also plays Lycoming in the annual Battle of the Boot game. “[The game] was created as a way to highlight the ever-growing rivalry between SU and Lycoming,” says Head Coach Jim Findlay. “It borrowed the idea from the football programs.”
The contest was born in 2001 when Findlay and the Lycoming head coach came up with a bronzed and mounted soccer shoe trophy. As with the Stagg hat, the winning team defends the shoe every year. Despite a 3–0 loss at Lycoming this year, SU holds a 7–2 advantage in Boot games. “We did lose this season, but we’ll look to regain the boot next year when we play the game in Selinsgrove,” Findlay says.
The women get in on the soccer rivalry when SU and Lycoming compete for the River Derby Cup each year. According to Head Coach Kathy Kroupa, the River Derby was created because “both teams always play some of their best soccer against each other, and that makes for a fantastic match.”
This year the teams tied, 2–2, allowing SU to keep the silver cup. Lycoming hasn’t beaten Susquehanna since 1998.
The two schools have recently fashioned another rivalry event—this time with a twist. The 2009 softball season brought the first Cancer Cup, a community-service doubleheader between the Crusaders and Warriors softball teams designed to promote breast-cancer awareness. Both squads wore pink shirts made especially for the event and collected donations for the American Cancer Society. According to Kroupa, also head softball coach, “We set the game up to celebrate the close rivalry that Lycoming and SU share, while also working to bring breast-cancer awareness and education to others.”
Susquehanna swept the doubleheader, 4–0, 8–4, proving that whether the Crusaders are competing for pride, tradition or community service, annual rivalry games often bring out the best in them.
Contributing writers to Scoreboard are Robert Edward Healy III, Kelly Stemcosky ‘11 and Justin Lutes.