Rivalries and sports are interdependent: one cannot exist without the other. For NYU Athletics, this is no different. Whether it was historic football matches against the University of Missouri or intense basketball games at Madison Square Garden against UCLA, NYU Athletics has always had a rival. As a former national championship holder in the NCAA’s Division I program, NYU’s dominance created bitter rivalries between the Violets and some of America’s top college programs. But this quickly changed when the Violets began de-emphasizing their athletic program in 1953. As NYU eventually removed all varsity sports — besides fencing — from Division I in 1981, the Violets gained new rivals as the competition changed to Division III.
Columbia University has historically rivaled NYU in both academics and prestige, so the schools have always shared bitter feelings for each other. Columbia and NYU have long competed for the privilege of representing Manhattan. However, Columbia competes in Division I, while NYU competes in Division III. Therefore, the two schools rarely face each other in athletic competitions, so students don’t always feel like each other’s rivals on a sports level.
However, this sentiment does not apply to members of NYU’s men’s club water polo team. Team member and CAS freshman Edward Sheu declared Columbia as his team’s top rival. Sheu said that the two teams often compete against one another in tournaments and other competitions.
“The rivalry with Columbia stems from two conflicting senses of local pride as New York City based schools, and our drive to beat them and prove our ability is the stem of [that],” Sheu said.
NYU varsity rivalries differ from team to team. CAS junior and women’s volleyball captain Rayne Ellis made this clear when she discussed her team’s top rival.
“Rivalry is interesting because your team could choose a rival and hate them for years — without the other team even knowing that you’re rivals,” Ellis said. “Baruch considers us rivals, we consider them an easy win. It goes like that.”
Ellis did, however, mention a few teams as particular rivals.
“I’d say the closest thing to having a mutual rivalry is with Stevens Tech in Hoboken,” Ellis said. “Sometimes we beat them, sometimes we lose to them. It really just depends on the year. Also everyone in the UAA hates Emory University because of their personas on the court.”
SPS sophomore Max Parks of the Violets’ men’s basketball team says the team experiences much of the same sense of competition against UAA schools.
“I would consider the team’s current biggest rival to be any team in the UAA, but especially teams like Emory University, Rochester and Washington [University],” Parks said. “The UAA is one of the hardest leagues in [Division III], so any and every game between us is a rivalry.”
Parks said that this UAA rivalry is significant with the team’s recent success in its bids for the UAA title, making the stakes high for the Violets when playing top teams in the division.
“The enrollment number is higher than other schools that we play,” Parks said, citing the university’s city locationas. “The pride for all of the schools is unmatched compared to non-UAA teams. Most years, more than one UAA team makes it to the NCAA national tournament as well, so it is always great competition.”
Even NYU men’s soccer team captain and senior Bryan Walsh, whose team has gone through some mediocre periods in recent seasons — going 9-8-2 this past season and 6-12 the one before — is no stranger to the spirit and motivation that comes with a rivalry. Walsh called Brandeis University his team’s top rival.
“It’s usually our last game, definitely a bitter cold game in November, especially if it’s up north at their place,” Walsh said. “Since it’s the last game, there’s usually something to play for concerning UAA positioning. They’ve been a solid team that retains their players well in the past four years.”
The Violets, who finished their season with a 9-8-2 record, defeated Brandeis 1-0 on the last day of the past season, a victory especially important to seniors like Walsh.
“The last win of my college career was our first win against Brandeis in about a decade, so that was pretty sweet,” Walsh said.
While much of the student body under-appreciates NYU’s Athletic programs, for the student athletes, college competition is certainly no joke.
Disclaimer: Rayne Ellis has written for the WSN sports desk before.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, March 6 print edition.
Email Lorenzo Gazzola at [email protected]