Overlooked amongst the aircraft carriers, camouflage unis and overseas air base battles was a humble matchup between two ancient mid-majors with little marquee value. The Army, Navy and Air Force academies play for the Commander-In-Chief’s Trophy every year, to a moderate amount of fanfare. For Virginia Military Institute and The Citadel, this year’s All-Military Classic contained one of the most meaningful games — outside of league tournament appearances — that they’ll play all year.
They pretty much battle for the championship of each other, because they are the only two DI military colleges in the nation not directly affiliated with a branch of the U.S. military.
Novelist Pat Conroy played point guard for The Citadel in the 1960s, when both schools were in the Southern Conference (VMI is now in the Big South), and he lovingly described the bitter rivalry between the two schools in his memoir My Losing Season.
The jocks of VMI had to endure the great scorn of their corps the same as we did. Jocks are second-class citizens in every military college in this country and in a secret, wordless accordance we acknowledged our aggrieved station in the chain of command by playing our best games against each other for the honor of our schools. Their Rat Line met our Fourth Class system head-on, and we paid homage to each other by raising the level of our games to the highest pitch.
I’ve been to a game at VMI, and it seemed to me that the internal scorn for athletes has diminished these days. I can definitely attest that these guys have a special bond built into their rivalry.
The Citadel won this year’s matchup 84-76. Last year, the two schools combined for more than 200 points. In a way, that doesn’t even matter. The fact that this game continues to be played whenever possible, and that these two schools set foot on the same court to test each other’s mettle again and again is something comforting. Something to be honored.
It’s a tall order in these days of constant realignment, but may this special rivalry never end.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.
Wednesday the NCAA made its ruling on two appeals of sanctions made by Syracuse University, with the news being mixed for the men’s basketball program.
On the positive side the NCAA ruled that Syracuse will be docked two scholarships per season for the next four years, as opposed to the original ruling of three. As a result Jim Boeheim’s program only has to account for the loss of eight total scholarships, meaning that they’ll have 11 to fill in each of the next four seasons as opposed to ten.
One scholarship may not seem like a big deal, but in a sport where you only get 13 (when not dealing with sanctions) getting that grant-in-aid back really helps from a recruiting standpoint.
As for the negatives, they both concern Boeheim. Not only has there yet to be a ruling on Boeheim’s appeal of his nine-game suspension that goes into effect when ACC play begins in January (that appeal is being heard separately), but the appeal to reinstate the wins that were vacated as part of the sanctions was denied. As a result Boeheim officially has 868 wins instead of 969 (not counting today’s game against Charlotte).
And with Mike Hopkins set to take over as head coach in 2018, the denial means that college basketball will have to wait quite some time before anyone threatens to join Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski in the 1,000 wins club.
While not having the wins officially reinstated does hurt, getting a scholarship back for each of the next four seasons is a bigger deal when it comes to the long-term health of the Syracuse program. Also of great importance will be the ruling regarding Boeheim’s suspension, as a suspended coach is not allowed to have any contact with his players or coaching staff while serving the penalty.
And with the original ruling due to take up half of Syracuse’s league slate, not having Boeheim (or the chance to speak with him) is a big deal when it comes to this current team.
St. John’s forward Kassoum Yakwe has been cleared by the NCAA to play this season and will be eligible immediately, the school announced on Wednesday.
Yakwe is a 6-foot-8 forward that reclassified and enrolled at St. John’s this fall. He attended the same high school as Kansas forward Cheick Diallo, who was also cleared by the NCAA to play today.
St. John’s played in the Maui Invitational this week, and Yakwe did not take part. His first game with the Johnnies will be on Dec. 2nd against Fordham if the program plans to play his this season.
The question that must be asked, however, is whether or not he will suit up or simply redshirt. The Johnnies are in the midst of a serious rebuild and will be without their other elite recruit this season, Marcus Lovett. Lovett was ruled a partial qualifier. Would it make sense to burn a year of eligibility on what make amount to a wasted season, or will head coach Chris Mullin opt to save that year for down the road?