South Alabama And Troy – The Beginning Of A Rivalry?

September 24, 2012 · By · Filed Under Football 

The South Alabama Jaguars have now turned their focus to their first Sun Belt Conference football game against Troy University. While they have never met on the gridiron, South Alabama and Troy have a long rivalry in the Sun Belt.

Both schools have fought hard against each other in all other sports. But in the south, football is king. And that rivalry is about to reach new heights this week when Troy visits Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

While the Jags are playing a full Sun Belt schedule this season, they are not eligible for the conference championship or a bowl game. But that does not deter the Jags from wanting to make waves in the conference this season.

Up to this point, the Jags have only played a handful of teams more than once. UTSA and Georgia State were the closest things to a rivalry game Jags fans have experienced until Saturday’s kickoff arrives. But this game will be a true rivalry game, an intense one, between the two schools.

“It will be a very exciting thing just because of geography,” Troy director of athletics Steve Dennis was quoted by the Press-Register. “Now that South Alabama has matriculated through the football stages, and we’ve always had a great rivalry in basketball and baseball and we recruit the same areas, football is just another addition to the puzzle, so to speak. It’s a very big piece though when you talk about football in the state of Alabama.”

Sun Belt commissioner Karl Benson spoke about the South Alabama and Troy rivlary. “Once South Alabama started football, that was the impetus for a true, legitimate rivalry,” he said. “When you have two schools in the same state, just a few miles from each other and fans have a chance to travel to the respective schools, that’s what makes a rivalry. The fans have to embrace the rivalry in order for there to be a rivalry.”

“Their proximity allows for it,” he continued. “The state of Alabama kind of has it’s own structure. Obviously there’s Auburn and Alabama and now you can thrown in Troy and South Alabama. … I think Troy-South Alabama has the same type of rivalry potential as Auburn-Alabama.”

Dr. Joel Erdmann, the South Alabama Athletics Director, is looking fowards to this weekend’s game as well as the rivalry’s future. “Due to several things – due to our proximity, due to the fact we’re located in the same state, due to the fact that we each have alumni in each other’s backyard – I think it’s a natural and tremendous fit for a rivalry that can be grown over the years,” Erdmann said. “They are an institution that has been around a little longer than us and they have been playing football a little longer than us – quite a while longer than us – but they have some aspects where they have climbed, too. They made a great climb from Division II through the old Division I-AA and now to the FBS. And not only has football had great success on a national level, but they have other sports that have been successful in the Sun Belt Conference and on a regional and national level.”

However, in the early days of the Sun Belt, South Alabama had a different in-state rival. UAB and South Alabama had a strong rivalry in basketball, but when the Blazers left the conference for Conference-USA the rivalry faded. Though they have played each other in basketball over the last few years, it isn’t the same.

Troy had a great rivalry with Jacksonville State when both teams were in Division II. However that rivalry was lost when Troy moved through Division I-AA to Division I-A (FBS) competition. Though they have developed a football rivalry with Middle Tennesse State and other schools in different sports, but not to the potential level a football rivalry with the Jags could reach.

“I think we can work to build this rivalry into something very special,” Erdmann said. “This could be one of those events that our people and their people circle on their calendars when the schedules come out in early spring.”

But a good rivalry has an equally good name. What name will emerge for this rivalry?

Hopefully this rivalry will stay on the positive side without the negativity that so many fans know and associate with the Alabama-Auburn rivalry.


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