Volume III, Issue IV Winter 2004

The Intangible Rivalry
San Diego State vs. UCSD gives town sides to cheer for

Contrary to overwhelmingly popular belief, there is in fact a heated, if somewhat intangible rivalry between San Diego's two largest institutions of higher learning: the University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University.

The heck, you say? Well, perhaps the only reason you don't see or feel it the way you see and feel the rivalry between, say, USC and UCLA or Ohio State and Michigan is because it's not a sports rivalry. It is a sociological one, a geographical one and, to a lesser degree, an academic one. There are no sports to speak of at UCSD, unless you consider water polo a sport (offended water poloists, please send your vitriolic letters to Turbula's bossman, Jim Trageser). But students there, as well as the 30,000-plus matriculating up on Montezuma Mesa, have their pride. Both are true to their schools, if in strange and subtle ways.

SDSU Yes, although most evidence suggests the contrary, the SDSU-UCSD rivalry is indeed real. And it is in fact embodied in my otherwise blissfully happy marriage.

I attended San Diego State in the mid-1980s; my wife went to UCSD at the same time. Significantly, we met long after both of us finished our college years. Still, we get into it from time to time about our respective schools. Neither of us is that defensive, but I do get my red-and-black pride up when she tells me that when she's among some of her Triton alums, she still commonly hears all those old familiar shots we've all heard against San Diego State. You know, that it's just a party school, all beer, no books. That only surfers, airheads and monosyllabic morons go there. That the valedictorian is an undeclared senior cheerleader. "Suds U." etc., etc.

At this point, I typically remind my beautiful and highly educated wife that my fellow Aztecers, too, still like to throw a few time-tested high and hard ones in UCSD's direction. You've heard 'em. That UCSD's students are all elitests and/or nerds. That all the women on campus are bow wows. That, academically and geographically, the school is simply not part of the real world and that the most fun they have on that campus is when a bunch of first-year medical school dweebs sitting around their dorm sharing biology notes decide to put down their books, throw off their white smocks and drop fruit and vegetables off the roof. Oh, those party animals.

UCSD Well, not to sound too conciliatory here, but the real truth is, both sides in this eternal debate are all wet. First, a little sorely needed P.R. for my alma mater: San Diego State is a top-notch, world-class university, the best state college in the state, and every bit as good as UCSD in certain disciplines and even better in some. Many business, art, English, political science, journalism and marketing majors, among others, typically and rightly prefer State over UCSD.

Sure, there are parties. Plenty. The Greek system is huge and active at SDSU, and the dorms rock. But the party-school tag is a bit of a misnomer. Fact is, SDSU is predominantly a commuter school and not a "college community," so to speak, like Isla Vista or Berkeley, and as such it will always be a second-tier party school. Sorry to burst your champagne bubble, but it's true.

As for UCSD, well, the ugly-girl charge is a mean myth. Have you spent any time at the Price Center lately? Lots of lovely co-eds. And of course, the most beautiful female creature who walks the earth went to UCSD. (Did I say that the way you wanted me to, sweetie?) And one can't overestimate the contribution UCSD has made to this city and the world in terms of science and technology. San Diego would not be booming in the wireless and biotech sectors if not for UCSD. San Diego, in fact, would not be anything like it is without UCSD.

But perceptions are way slow to change, and many if not most of my fellow Montezuma Mesans will undoubtedly continue to blast UCSD, and vice versa. I can live with that. It's just too bad this subtle but very real rivalry can't be worked out somehow, somewhere. Like in the athletic arena.

I think it's high time we created some sort of SDSU-vs.-UCSD event. Some sort of contest. It would get plenty of publicity in a city filled to the gills with alum from both schools. Like, say, a surfing challenge. Yeah, that's the ticket. A surfing challenge.

Then again, maybe that isn't such a good idea. After all, although SDSU is 20 minutes from the beach, thousands of students surf, while at UCSD, which is within eyeshot of some of the best waves in North America, there are a total of four undergrads who've ever shot the curl. And that's no myth, it's fact. I checked it out with an old SDSU statistics professor of mine. He surfs, too.

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