The University of San Diego announced on Friday that they will continue their rivalry series with San Diego State with a game in December taking place in Petco Park, home of the San Diego Padres. It will be the 18th consecutive season the two school will meets, and kicks off the five year extension of the series announced on the same day.
Known across San Diego as the City Championship, the annual meeting between the two programs in men’s basketball is one of the biggest local sporting events of the year. However, it has lost some luster in recent years as the Toreros have struggled while the Aztecs grew into a national contender and one of the best programs in California. Rumors were rampant that this series may go the way of other lopsided local rivalries in college basketball where the more successful teams ends the relationship to protect their national status and avoid embarrassing upsets.
It’s a very encouraging sign to these two schools renew their rivalry, and the length of the deal reveals a commitment by San Diego State to continue growing sports and college basketball in the city despite there being little benefit to them risking damaging their national ranking each year by playing a local rival that is very motivated to beat them. Despite the talent gap, the Toreros have continually pushed the Aztecs throughout the rivalry. Two years ago, the Toreros pushed the Aztecs to the limit and saw a Duda Sanadze potential game-winning shot just miss at the buzzer.
That game very well may have had some influence on the renewal of this deal and the decision to play in Petco Park. The Aztecs likely have no problem playing the Toreros at home or on a neutral court in their own city, as the fans will be heavily lopsided in favor of them. The issue as the talent gap widened between the two teams was having to head across town to USD every two years as the teams alternated home venues. A highly ranked team like SDSU does not normally force themselves to compete on the road against inferior schools, and they may have forced the hand of the Toreros by requesting fewer games on the USD campus.
This year would have been a year scheduled for a game at USD if it had not been moved to Petco Park. The large crowd will be heavily in favor of the Aztecs, and it will be interesting to see how many true home games the Toreros will get during this five year extension. Already they would only receive at best two true home games out of the five during this extension, as they are technically giving up one this year. The remaining four years will likely either continue to alternate home games, or perhaps involve more neutral sites. But either way, it would be no surprise if the Aztecs continue to push for fewer games to be held on the USD campus since it’s one of the only places the Toreros would have even close to equal support.
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For now though, attention is on this exciting and unique event. Unique venues for games have become all the rage since North Carolina and Michigan State met in San Diego aboard an aircraft carrier four years ago. And Petco Park has gotten in on the act hosting events like tennis tournaments and monster truck rallies despite being a baseball stadium. This will be the first college basketball game held there, and the setup will allow for upwards of 20,000 fans according to the press release. The court will be set up between home plate and third base, with fans allowed in the normal baseball stands surrounding that area as well as special stands erected across the side of the court that will face the field.
The opportunity for the Toreros is a big one. First year Head Coach Lamont Smith has done his best to reload his coaching staff and his roster after the graduation of stars Johnny Dee and Chris Anderson. With few marquee opponents on the schedule each year, the City Championship is always a big game for the Toreros. This one, with all its media attention, could put Smith and the Toreros on the map if they could score a shocking upset.
The game is scheduled for December 5th of this year, and as always will count as a regular season, non-conference game for both schools.