Game on: Do we hear rivalry?

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    By Leigh Dethman

    Twice a year, BYU students go crazy over one of the most storied rivalries in the country. The University of Utah/BYU match up is one of the toughest in the nation.

    Now UVSC wants in on the action.

    Soon, BYU could have another rival.

    In March of 2002, UVSC announced its athletic program will make the jump from junior college ball to full-blown, NCAA Division I status next season.

    “Going from junior college to Division I, from what I understand, has never been done before,” said UVSC women”s basketball coach and former BYU All-American Cathy Nixon. “It is a huge step.”

    The rivalry will have to wait a few years; UVSC basketball isn”t even in a conference yet. The basketball teams will play a provisional schedule next season, and can”t go to the NCAA tournament for six years.

    BYU women”s basketball coach Jeff Judkins said he can”t wait to play the Wolverines.

    “Ask them why they won”t play us,” Judkins said. “They”re not real crazy about playing us. If they schedule a game, we”ll play them.”

    UVSC sophomore forward Katie Wilson tells a different story.

    “I”ve heard they won”t add us to their schedule,” Wilson said. “I think it would be fun to play them, but whatever.”

    Nixon said she wants to build a rivalry with cross-town BYU.

    “BYU is at a level that we only dream about being some day,” Nixon said. “We”re going to try to follow in their footsteps and hopefully it will develop into a healthy rivalry.”

    In the past, UVSC and BYU had a close relationship, helping each other out in the recruiting process. BYU sends players to UVSC to gain experience, and the Wolverines send their star players to Provo.

    BYU men”s basketball star, Travis Hansen played one year at UVSC before transferring. In the BYU softball team”s first year of existence, about half of the team transferred from UVSC, said former Wolverine softball coach Todd Fairbourne. Two players from the Cougar women”s basketball team, juniors Kestlee Nelson and Ashleigh Chamberlain, notched two years of experience at UVSC.

    “Both Kestlee and Ashleigh typify the junior college niche,” Nixon said. “You knew they were great players. It took a little bit of experience for them to reach the potential that I felt they had.”

    After Ricks College dropped its athletic program, BYU turned to UVSC to recruit players. Now that UVSC is stepping out of the junior college ranks, BYU will have to look elsewhere to recruit.

    “UVSC and Ricks were pipelines to BYU,” Hansen said. “It will make BYU do more recruiting out of state. They will have to work harder to get the players that have the talent they need to this area.”

    Judkins said he”ll find another way to develop players now that UVSC moved on to the next level.

    “It will be hard, because we have sent some players down to Utah Valley,” Judkins said. “Now I”ll have to send them to Salt Lake, Snow, maybe Dixie or some other junior colleges.”

    Nixon agreed.

    “There are enough JCs here that people will still come to this area,” Nixon said. “They won”t be at Ricks or Utah Valley, but I think people will still come here.”

    But Nixon believes UVSC will be able to recruit quality players, even though BYU is only a few miles away.

    “There are a lot more LDS players that can”t go to BYU,” Nixon said. “I still think with Ricks not having athletics anymore that there is still a niche for Utah Valley. BYU only needs so many players each year and they only need so many positions each year.”

    Judkins isn”t worried about recruiting now that there are two Division I schools in the same town.

    “Do I think UVSC going D-1 is going to hurt us? No,” Judkins said. “For several reasons, one is our university is more well known. Secondly, they can”t go to the NCAA tournament for six years. The third reason is they”re not in a conference, so there is no chance you can tell a kid, ”Hey you can have the chance to win a conference championship.” Fourth, we have better facilities than they have.”

    Nelson said UVSC”s move won”t affect BYU for a few years.

    “I think they”ll be a real good program, but they have to get established,” Nelson said. “Will we be rivals? Oh yeah – why not?”

    Chamberlain warned the Wolverines that D-1 is a whole different game.

    “It will take them a while to get into the swing of being Division I,” Chamberlain said. “Junior college ball is a lot different, even though it is still college ball. It is a totally different league.”

    Judkins echoed her sentiments.

    “Now they”re going with the big boys,” Judkins said. “It”s not going to be easy.”

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