Michigan and Michigan State: Is It Really a Competitive Rivalry?
In 2003, Pontiac and Fox Sports Detroit joined forces with the Michigan and Michigan State Athletic Directors in order to spice up the in-state rivalry. They created a Pontiac Challenge Cup, which would be awarded to the winner of the rivalry each season.
They separated the Cup into three seasons: Fall, Winter, and Spring. Each school was awarded points for every victory they achieved against the rival school. For example, when Michigan beat Michigan State in football, they received one point.
At the end of each season, the points were totaled and the winning school received the Pontiac Challenge Cup.
Does this sound familiar? If you have never heard of it, that is because the Cup was disbanded two seasons ago after the spring of 2006.
Several fans have kept up with this rivalry as it tracks the results of all the sports, not just the major ones like football, basketball, and hockey.
While the major sports receive all the publicity, the minor sports count too in a rivalry. The Pontiac Challenge Cup highlighted all the sports and the rivalry.
Why was this such a joke? While Michigan State remained competitive in the major sports, they were blown out in the minor sports.
Many people don't know this, but Michigan Men's Swimming has won all but 5 out of 83 meets in their history against Michigan State.
Michigan has won the cup 13 times. They also have tied Michigan State twice, in which Michigan retains the cup. Michigan State would have finally won the cup for the first time this fall.
Michigan State won this fall's football, men's cross country, men's soccer, and women's volleyball, giving them over 3 points which is enough to win the Cup.
Now, is this rivalry really that competitive? Every rivalry has hatred, winners and losers, smack talk, and the right to "own the state". When one team consistently provides better athletics, how competitive can the rivalry actually be?
Outsiders can argue that Michigan State keeps this rivalry competitive because they won football this year and have good basketball and hockey programs.
The Pontiac Challenge Cup proves that despite the competitiveness in the major sports, the minor sports lack this greatly.
Many people will argue that the minor sports don't matter. Who cares about softball and gymnastics? A true fan. A true sports fan cares about every team from their school, so yes, minor sports matter.
Does the NCAA count golf, field hockey, and wrestling as sports? Did the University of Michigan celebrate when their softball team won the NCAA Championship in 2005? Yes, minor sports matter too.
Minor sports matter in a rivalry such as this. Give Michigan State credit - they are competitive with the well-known sports. When you want to claim that you own the state and are the better university, you need to prove it on all fields.
Michigan has year-in and year-out proven they deserve to own the state. If they promise their athletes they will beat the in-state rival and win championships, they come through with that promise.
They win the in-state recruiting battle as well. When you beat your in-state rival every year, high school athletes notice this. Why would a high school star want to be on the second-best team in the state?
The Pontiac Challenge Cup proved how much Michigan has owned Michigan State. That is why they got rid of the Cup in 2006. Why embarrass one school so much?
Congratulations Michigan, you own the Pontiac Cup. Good thing they retired it or it would finally have found a home in East Lansing this fall.
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