This Saturday afternoon, the football teams at the University of Delaware and Delaware State University will face one another for the first time in a regular-season game (they played in the I-AA playoffs two years agoâ€”the Hens smashed the Hornets, 44-7).
It has been a long time coming. Kevin Tresolini, the Wilmington News Journal’s excellent sports reporter, has been pushing the match-up for eons. I first wrote about it way back in 1991, whenâ€”as a Delaware freshmanâ€”I published a piece in the student newspaper wondering why the two teams never played. The campuses, after all, are roughly 50 miles apart. The schools are in the same division, recruit from the same pools, having coaches who intimately know one another.
So why didn’t they play?
Hard to say. (I wrote this column in 2007, delving into the subject) Race was certainly a factorâ€”Delaware State is the small, poor, black school, Delaware the rich mostly white institution. There was also Delaware’s fear of a prestige slapâ€”a loss to inferior Del. State would hardly embolden a I-AA power like the Hens. Mostly, I’m guessing, it had to do with the old, crusty, wealthy men on this or that board who just didn’t want to to it. Just. Didn’t Want. To. So it never happened.
Now, at long last, it’s happening. Many Delaware backers who oppose the game say, “What’s the point? Delaware will kill Del. State year after year.” Truth be told, they’re probably right. UD has the far superior program. But anyone willing to look past the banal simplicities of win-loss-tie collegiate sports blah blah blah can see what this is: A breaking down of a barrier. A magical opportunity. The chance for an exciting day in a small, dull state. Truth is, doesn’t matter what the final score is; or whether the Hens win the next 100,000 games.
It’s about unity.
And, amazingly, fun.