By: Jay Kidwell
The spirited local men's basketball rivalry with St. Ambrose will come to an end for the foreseeable future after this season as Augustana looks to enhance its position in the NCAA tournament selection process. The teams will meet for the 94th time on December 5, 2012 at Carver Center.
Both Augustana Director of Athletics Mike Zapolski and head coach Grey Giovanine expressed regret at having to end the storied rivalry.
"Our decision to not schedule future basketball games against St. Ambrose is based completely upon putting our program in the best position possible to qualify for the NCAA Tournament," said Zapolski. "The current selection criteria place an emphasis on playing games against NCAA Division III opponents, and as a former committee member (2007-10); I can assure you that one additional win can make the difference in the final Pool C (at large) selections. Any of our team sports contending for NCAA post-season play are well-served by playing a complete non-conference schedule against NCAA Division III opponents."
Giovanine added, "We are penalized for playing the St. Ambrose game, regardless of outcome, by the NCAA selection committee, as it leaves us one game short of a full schedule in the way they consider NCAA post-season selection. I regret that the rules discourage us from going forward with what has been a competitive series with local interest, but we have to do what is in the best interest of the students in our program."
The rivalry began during the 1912-13 season with Augustana claiming a 34-22 win. From 1927-28 through 1943-48, the teams played twice each year with the exception of 1944-45, when they did not meet. After a 17-year hiatus, the series picked up again with two meetings each season between 1965-66 and 1970-71. The Bees and Vikings met three times during the 1971-72 season, with Augustana winning all three, including the first game ever played at Carver Center. The teams have met once a year since 1991, with the exception of 2009-10 when St. Ambrose stepped aside, opening up a date for the Vikings to play at Division I Gonzaga.
Augustana holds a 59-34 edge in the series and has won the last four meetings and eight of the last 10.