RivalsThe men’s basketball showdown between the Cougars and the California Baptist Lancers at the Felix Event Center on Friday, Jan. 24 sealed a fate that, according to Athletics Director Gary Pine, was seven years in the making.

Cal Baptist is here to stay as APU’s new rival.

Over the years, the Cougars had their share of rivalries with other schools including Biola, Westmont and Point Loma. But Cal Baptist has been growing quickly as a university over the past 15 years, and now, its athletics program is at the same level as Azusa Pacific’s.

“Schools have grown and evolved and moved on and changed, and it’s now Cal Baptist and Azusa Pacific,” Pine said. “I said Friday night [Jan. 24] during the game [against Cal Baptist], ‘This is very Biola-esque in its atmosphere,’ and I think it’s only going to get more so.”

The difference between the rivalry with Biola and that with Cal Baptist is that the CBU one goes beyond men’s basketball. While the Biola rivalry exclusively existed in men’s basketball games, that with Cal Baptist permeates most other sports as well, such as soccer, baseball and softball.

The rivalry is at its strongest during the men’s basketball contests, as seen Friday, Jan. 24.

“Let’s be honest; when we see Cal Baptist in baseball a few months from now, they’re going to remember us from the basketball game and we’re going to remember them from the basketball game,” Pine said. “The rivalry will carry on through many sports and partly because now that we’re all competing at a higher level at NCAA Division II and we’re still competing for a conference championship, that just adds more robustness to the rivalry.”


Senior forward Bert Hall experienced men’s basketball’s most recent memorable moment against the California Baptist Lancers – ending their perfect season on Friday, Jan. 24.Photo credit: Kimberly Smith

Cal Baptist applied to become NCAA members in 2010 and was accepted July 12 of that year. Pine said the school followed through with applying because APU decided to apply as well.

“When it came to the NCAA move, Cal Baptist started that talk about four or five years before we did, but they didn’t want to fly solo,” Pine said. “When we came in and said, ‘Hey, we’re thinking about this,’ that really put wind into their sails because they knew they weren’t alone and they had a possible partner in Azusa Pacific.”

The Lancers are now full-fledged NCAA Division II members and the Cougars are in their final year of the transition period into the NCAA. The two schools helped each other a lot in this transition process and according to Pine, the two schools need each other in order to continue growing.

“They have been a great help to us – great models. In all honesty, in their transition to the NCAA, Cal Baptist has been excellent,” Pine said. “It’s been great that we can call them up and [ask them questions]. They would show us their model and we copied them in many areas. I have tremendous respect for the people at Cal Baptist, their athletic program and what they’re doing.”

Azusa Pacific and Cal Baptist have had some heated matchups over the past five years. In 2010, the Cougars women’s soccer team knocked the Lancers out of the NAIA tournament in the quarterfinals. In 2012, the Lancers men’s soccer team beat the Cougars in the NCCAA West Regionals game. Last year, the Cougars men’s basketball team knocked the Lancers out of the NCCAA Regionals tournament, and this season the Cougars women’s soccer team beat them to win the PacWest Conference championship.


Junior forward Alyx Williams experienced women’s soccer’s most recent memorable moments against the California Baptist Lancers – when they took the PacWest conference crown via a game-winning goal. Courtesy: Holly Magnuson

The women’s soccer team’s NAIA tournament showdown in 2010 took place in Decatur, Ala., and is currently Cougars’ head coach Jason Surrell’s favorite moment of the rivalry.

“When [your season is] on the line, it makes it more intense, but we played them in Alabama and we beat them 3-0,” Surrell said. “They were not good sports, they were not happy. I think there was a red card after the game and yellow cards after the game. The fact that Azusa [Pacific] just ended their season just made it that much worse, but it was obviously enjoyable for us to play a good team like them and knock them out of the national tournament.”

Graduating senior defender Danielle Ross shares the same favorite memory as her head coach. According to Ross, the field that players were on in Alabama did not drain, and it was a cold and rainy afternoon. The result was a massive box of mud for a playing surface. Unfortunate weather conditions combined with a rough rivalry made for an instant classic.

“You couldn’t even pass the ball in the back because the ball wouldn’t roll, so it was [like playing] kickball,” Ross said. “It was physical, just battling and who could basically outlast the other team physically and mentally, and we clearly did. We finished our chances, kept them out of our box. They had a couple of close calls, but we held our own. It was good, it was fun.”

Every time the team played against Cal Baptist, Surrell would push the women harder, according to Ross.

“[Coach Surrell] put a lot of stress on these games – oh yeah. Absolutely. I got yelled at my freshman year, screamed at for making little mistakes, but he’s competitive and he wanted to win and he wanted to raise us to that level,” Ross said.

The level of competition remains intense between the two teams in all sports, but the best rivalries are not restricted to each sport’s playing field. The Azusa Pacific/Cal Baptist rivalry reaches the faculty and staff of both schools, something Pine calls “crossover.”

“There’s a lot of Azusa Pacific people who now work at Cal Baptist and there’s a lot of Cal Baptist people who work over here. There are some parents who went to the other school whose child goes to the other school. … Assistant coaches who used to coach at Cal Baptist, staff personnel that used to teach at Cal Baptist and vice versa,” Pine said. “Those are the types of features that add to a rivalry, that make it so enjoyable.”

The crossover exists with students and their parents as well when APU graduates send their children to Cal Baptist and the reverse.

“Both schools are close in size, in their scope, in their mission and in their purpose, and we know that there are a lot of Christian families that a lot of their final choices come down to Azusa Pacific and Cal Baptist,” Pine said.

Junior communication studies major and co-founder of The Zu Jon Root is actively leading cheers on the sidelines at APU sporting events. The Jan. 24 game against Cal Baptist was the biggest turnout at a Cougar basketball game thus far this year and Root wants more fan support at every sport’s big games.

“I really feel like we can have a DI atmosphere at APU, but we’re also trying to not put too many eggs in one basket,” Root said. “We’re looking at how we can promote big games for certain sports … even the club teams like club volleyball and rugby. … Every single team deserves promotion.”

The Biola rivalry included many memorable pranks, such as the famous giant Blackout shirt on the Jesus mural at Biola’s campus. Root said somewhere down the line, overnight pranks will become part of the rivalry with the Lancers.

“We’re going to start finding things that happen on each school’s campus the night before games,” Root said.

Despite all of the fun pranks and high levels of intensity, Pine hopes the rivalry will remain “healthy” as Surrell, Ross and Pine described it.

“At its height, in the late ’90s, early 2000s, I think the Biola/Azusa Pacific basketball rivalry was second only to the USC/UCLA rivalry here in southern California. I would love to see the Cal Baptist/APU rivalry to come second to the USC/UCLA [rivalry],” Pine said. “I think some of the [rivalries] in the Big West like Cal State Fullerton/Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton/UC Irvine would be hard-pressed to beat what we had here Friday night. My desire is that this rivalry would, within the right confines and the right boundaries, grow and be something that people would talk about.”

With round two of the men’s basketball showdown between the Cougars and the Lancers coming up Saturday, Feb. 8 at 7:30 p.m., the rivalry looks to take another long leap as the Cougars travel to Riverside, and the CBU Crazies and The Zu aim to blow the roof off Van Dyne Gym.