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UC Davis Magazine

Volume 31 · Number 1 · Fall 2013


A Classic Rivalry

Two soccer players chase the ball.

The UC Davis/Sacramento State rivalry has grown in men’s soccer with the two teams now playing in the same conference.

(Mark Honbo/UC Davis)

The long competition between UC Davis and Sacramento State is about a lot more than football these days.

Name the Aggies coach who had this to say about the rivalry between UC Davis and Sacramento State University: “I love being a part of it. Over the years there have been so many great battles between our teams. . . . For me, one thing has remained constant while competing against the Hornets as both a player and a coach — it always feels like a playoff game.”

Bob Biggs ’73, a former Aggies quarterback and longtime football coach, would be a good guess, but it would be wrong.

Try women’s basketball head coach Jennifer Gross ’97, who played for the Aggies in 1993–97 before taking over as head coach two years ago.

The Aggies-Hornets rivalry — which started Oct. 9, 1954, with a 14–0 victory by the Aggies football team over the Hornets — has spread from the gridiron to the fields and courts of 16 other varsity sports.

Victorian buggy and cylinder-shaped concrete trophy

A 19th-century carriage, the Causeway Carriage, used to go to the football team that won the Causeway Classic game. Now the teams exchange a trophy made from cement from the Yolo Causeway.

To be sure, the football Causeway Classic rivalry is still going strong. The Aggies hold a 42–18 record against the Hornets, and the game has become an annual point of pride for each fan base, with bragging rights on the line each and every year. The 60th Causeway Classic game on Nov. 23 in Sacramento will be the finale of the 2013 regular season for both teams.

But the Causeway Cup — launched in 2004–05 as the Aggies began the transition to Division I — has created an all-year, 17-team competition between the two campuses on opposite ends of Interstate 80’s Yolo Causeway.

And in 2012–13, the competition for the Causeway Cup grew even more intense with the football and men’s soccer meetings becoming conference games — the Aggies joined the Big Sky for football while the Sacramento State’s men’s soccer program joined the Big West.

“We have always had a good rivalry, but now with us playing in the Big West, it gives our games even more meaning because we are playing for points and a bid to the Big West Tournament,” Sacramento State men’s soccer head coach Michael Linenberger said. “Last year is a good example, as the final game of the season at Davis was for the Big West Northern Division championship. It was a great crowd and game with a lot on the line. We are hoping for the same thing this year when we host the Aggies on the final day of the regular season.”

The UC Davis men’s soccer team won the season finale against the Hornets last year, 2–1. The victory clinched the Big West North Division title for the Aggies and gave them another 2.5 points in the Causeway Cup, after also beating the Hornets, 3–1, on the road earlier in the season.

For the Causeway Cup, the winner of each matchup is given a predetermined amount of points — 10 each for football, volleyball, men’s basketball and women’s basketball, and five each for women’s soccer, men’s soccer, men’s golf, women’s golf, men’s cross country, women’s cross country, gymnastics, men’s tennis, women’s tennis, men’s track and field, women’s track and field, softball and baseball.

If the two schools meet just once each season, like in football, then all the points go to the winning team of that one game. But if the teams play each other two times or more, the points are divided for each contest. For example, the softball teams usually meet twice each year, so each game is worth 2.5 points.

Last year, UC Davis won the cup, defeating Sacramento State, 60.42 to 39.58, after a dominating fall and winter.

The Aggies jumped out to a big lead early by scoring 30 points with wins in volleyball, football, men’s cross country and men’s soccer. An 87–76 win by the UC Davis men’s basketball team at The Nest in Sacramento gave the Aggies another 10 points. In February, a 4–3 women’s tennis upset of the powerhouse Hornets clinched the cup for the Aggies.

Last year’s margin of victory was the second biggest by the Aggies in the series, and the largest since UC Davis posted a 40-point win (67.5 to 37.5) in 2007–08. The Aggies currently own an overall 5–4 edge in the nine-year history of the competition.

The Causeway Cup revives a rivalry that some of the sports have experienced in the past, but sporadically because they often competed in different conferences. The Hornets moved to Division I ahead of the Aggies in 1993–94.

In women’s basketball, the Aggies and Hornets first battled in 1971–72 and competed each year until 1994–95, but did not play again for a decade.

Coach Gross said the Causeway Cup has raised the level of play. “Rivalries bring out incredible emotion and challenge players to perform at their best when the stakes are high,” she said. “Over the years there have been so many great battles between our teams. There have been decisive victories and last-second finishes. You never know what will happen in a Causeway Cup matchup, and that’s what makes it exciting. . . . The crowd is energized, the emotions are high, the game is physical and both teams leave everything on the floor.”

Women’s soccer head coach Maryclaire Robinson, now in her 22nd year, said: “I think the rivalry is important for our entire athletics department. Having a game our students, fans and other student-athletes can circle on each sport’s schedule helps create more support here for athletics in general. The Causeway Cup helps the entire campus rally around one another when the Aggies play the Hornets.”

The Causeway Cup is now sponsored by ScholarShare, the state’s 529 college investment plan.

This year’s competition began on Aug. 23 with women’s soccer at Aggie Field.

“Given our start date, we generally kick off the Causeway Cup and enjoy that responsibility,” Robinson said. “Being the first competition in a rivalry series, it’s important to create momentum, put points on the board and set the tone for the new year. It feels like a conference game in August for us, because it’s more gritty, more intense, the tackles are tougher and the goals are sweeter. We love playing the game, it’s a great local event!”

a yearbook photo of a dorm residents performing a pre-game skit and sign that reads Beat Sac

Aggies used to hold a rally like this one in 1964 on the eve of the football game against Sacramento State to rouse spirit and to give student living groups an opportunity to compete with one another. Each dorm or fraternity entered a skit focused on the rivalry between the Sac State Hornets and the Aggies. The rally was followed by the Beauty and the Beast Ball, with all benefits going to the Cal Camp fund.

Joe Waltasti is an assistant director of athletics communications at the University of Oregon. In prior career stops, he spent time at both Sacramento State and UC Davis, developing a unique respect for the Causeway Cup rivalry. Waltasti grew up in suburban Chicago, where he was groomed on great rivalry games, like Bears versus Packers and Cubs against Cardinals. While he enthusiastically roots for one side in each of those games — go Bears, come on Cubs — he tries to straddle the line in the Causeway Cup. Go, uh, Ag-nets?!