Biola joins Azusa Pacific in the PacWest conference to bring back the biggest Division II rivalry in California
Biola University began their competition in the Pacific West Conference this 2017-2018 season after announcing in mid-July of 2016 that they had been accepted into the NCAA Division II membership process.
Azusa Pacific University and Biola University have been longtime rivals since their competition days as members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in the Golden State Athletic Conference.
“Biola has become much more well-rounded in its athletic program, starting from basketball. There has been a huge growth in their soccer, softball, volleyball teams,” APU athletic director, Gary Pine said. “It’s been wonderful to experience the collaboration with the Biola athletic department, and I am excited for people to envy our rivalry.”
The athletic departments at both APU and Biola have recently introduced the Cornerstone Cup as another added benefit to the rivalry. Throughout the school year, points will be given to teams that win more of their regular season head-to-head games or finish higher at a PacWest Conference meet. Whichever sports team wins that match-up will be awarded 10 points, and because there are 14 athletics teams, a total of 140 points will be up for grabs.
“The name of the trophy derives from the cornerstones that are important not only to APU, but to Biola as well,” Sports Information Director, Joe Reinsch said. “A replica of the original cornerstone of Biola is even presented to the Biola president, so we wanted to make sure that the trophy represented more than just the rivalry.”
The battle for the Cornerstone Cup will bring excitement to the two school’s athletic programs, but also serves as a event where many people with the same faith and views can come together for friendly competition.
“The Cornerstone Cup reminds us of our commonality. We’re all brothers and sisters in Christ, and a championship does not define who we are to each other,” Pine continued. “I think I have taken for granted the relationship that we have Biola during our five-year absence with them. I am very excited to partner with them again and enjoy the competition.”
APU also introduced Brick Games this year to encourage the student body to go out and experience the rivalry for themselves. Most of the Brick Games fall on athletic events that involve Biola as the opponent.
“These games with Biola are events that everyone looks forward to. It’s more than just the game itself; it is an event in itself. When you have the opportunity to have bragging rights, it’s a collective opportunity to accomplish that,” Justin Leslie, the men’s basketball head coach and a player during the NAIA rivalry, said. “It’s different being on the coaching side of it because it brings back so many memories. Alumni will always contact me before we play Biola, and you can just hear that excitement in their voices.”
While Biola remained in NAIA and APU transitioned into the NCAA, California Baptist University became the competitor in a new rivalry both APU and CBU communities created. Large crowds at both schools would be in attendance for either a basketball, volleyball or soccer game. Cal Baptist will be leaving the PacWest soon as they are transitioning into the NCAA Division I, but as for now, Biola adds a new dimension to the conference.
“People just want to beat us because it validates them. For basketball, nobody’s won the conference more than we have,” Leslie said. “The difference with our rivalry with Biola is that there are a lot of similarities between us. It brings out the best in all of us, and the rivalry is very healthy with a shared respect for the other school.”
The athletic department at APU hopes that this rivalry will reach out more than just the local area.
“We want the community to say how great and how fun this rivalry is. I want our rivalry to be right up there with the Stanford-Cal and USC-UCLA rivalries,” Pine said. “We want to make our presence known in the NCAA, and we want people from all over to come on to our campus and notice that there is something special and something different about us.”
Already nicknamed as the biggest non-Division I rivalry in the state of California, APU and Biola have huge expectations, and are looking to gain the attention of many local communities.
“This is going to be a great way to highlight both of our institutions, and it will present us with some huge opportunities for the future,” Leslie continued. “Whether you’re a student or a spectator, you are going to feel the difference about this rivalry and feel a different energy.”
Pine continues to say his hopes for it to reach beyond the schools but into the community as well.
“There are a lot of families that have members at both schools. There are also many students that are from both schools that attend the same church,” Pine said. “We hope that this rivalry will also bring a sense of unity to draw people together in the churches, at the universities and locally.”
Women’s volleyball will be the first athletic team on campus to take on Biola on Friday, Sept. 22, at 6:00 p.m. in the Felix Event Center. This game has officially been declared as a “Brick Game” for APU, and it will be the first of many to come.