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Columbia Spectator Staff

The Ivy League catches the eyes of the national media only a few times a year, and nothing brings attention to the Ancient Eight like the storied meeting between Harvard and Yale football. This year's game at the Yale Bowl, the 122nd meeting between the two teams, drew over 53,000 fans, nearly half of the Bulldogs' season total.

This can be attributed to rivalry, something that Columbia athletics teams have been without for years.

"Rivalries are built on some form of tradition," women's soccer head coach Kevin McCarthy said. "That is how they are built and developed."

Whether it's Red Sox-Yankees in baseball or North Carolina-Duke in basketball, rivlaries add a flair and an intensity that other games are without.

"We played Hartwick or LIU, who were also regional powers at the time, and we'd draw 4,000 people to the games," added McCarthy, who played soccer for the Lions when they won four straight Ivy titles in the earl '80s. "We had fantastic rivalries ... there were great crowds and incredible intensity."

As the principle component of a rivalry, tradition often fuels a deep-seated mixture of dislike and respect for the opposition. Years of playing the same team, often in crucial games and often with mixed results, creates a distinct yet indescribable buzz preceding the matchup.

This generates fan interest and spikes in attendance. Last year's matchup of Ivy basketball powerhouses Penn and Princeton at the Palestra drew over 7,800 fans.

A true rivalry, or lack thereof, is one reason why Columbia draws so few fans. Despite their hot start, the football team averaged fewer than 5,000 fans per game this season. And despite the men's basketball team's hot start last year, only 1,300 fans on average attended their home games.

"In the Ivy League, geographically, very often, rivalries are formed," McCarthy said. "From my point of view, [Columbia's lack of a rival] is strictly geographic."

 

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