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Hillsdale College and Grand valley State Uni­versity are both charter members of the GLIAC and have com­peted against each other since 1972. Until 2009, Hillsdale did not have a football or bas­ketball program capable of beating GVSU. Through better training, resources, and recruiting, Hillsdale has made the rivalry com­pet­itive.

“Grand Valley set the precedent,” said Keith Otterbein, head coach of Hillsdale’s football program. “They were the national cham­pions for quite a few years. They set the bar for our con­ference, and have raised the caliber for football.”

The goal of the bas­ketball coaching staff, when first hired in 2007, was to beat GVSU, said John Tharp, head coach of Hillsdale’s bas­ketball program.

GVSU, however, does not see Hillsdale as its greatest rival, said Tim Selgo, ath­letic director of GVSU. Because of the university’s closeness with Ferris State Uni­versity, a greater ani­mosity exists between those two schools.

Nev­er­theless, Selgo does acknowledge that some rivalry does exist between GVSU and Hillsdale.

“Grand Valley and Hillsdale has always been a good rivalry,” he said. “Cer­tainly the last three or four games have all come down to the end. A mistake here or there has easily made the dif­ference between a game.”

The coaching staffs of football and bas­ketball both agree that, in the last 10 years, the ath­letics department has improved con­sis­tently. At the beginning of the decade in both sports, Grand Valley was the national champion while Hillsdale struggled.

“We looked down the field and thought ‘wow, these are men.’ They used to kill everyone,” Otterbein said. “I tried not to look down there during warm-ups.”

Luke Laser ‘10, a former Hillsdale bas­ketball player, said that the Grand Valley players’ attitude toward Hillsdale players con­tributed to the rivalry.

“They were better than us on the court. They tried to talk down when they played us,” he said. “We took it per­sonally. It became a hatred.”

In the last five years, Hillsdale has started to win against Grand Valley. Along with indi­vidual wins against GVSU, both Hillsdale football and bas­ketball were GLIAC cham­pions last season.

“The rivalry is getting more and more intense because we’ve been beating them,” said junior Brett Miller, football player. “We’ve become a stum­bling block to them. We are the team they want to beat.”

Otterbein sees the Hillsdale victory against GVSU in 2009 as a turning point for the football program. At that home­coming game, Hillsdale was pitted against a Grand Valley squad that had not lost one league game in 70.

“I thought, ‘why are we playing these cats during home­coming?’” Otterbein said. “Someone outside of this office obvi­ously decides when home­coming is.”

Hillsdale went on to beat GVSU with a score of 27 to 24.

While GVSU might have more suc­cesses in ath­letics, the Hillsdale coaching admin­is­tration takes solace in the fact that their players also receive an excellent edu­cation.

“The story that we tell is that we have the best aca­d­emics in Division II,” Tharp said. “We provide that better than anyone else in the country.”

Hillsdale recruits players that have the aca­demic ability to fit in at Hillsdale, Otterbein said. Of the three freshmen that the bas­ketball team recruited this year, two scored a 32 on their ACT and the other received a 29.

“We sep­arate our­selves from other schools by the type of young people we recruit,” Tharp said. “A higher char­acter and a good aca­demic profile override every­thing else.”

Despite the com­pet­itive-fueled ani­mosity bas­ketball and football feel against GVSU, both admin­is­tra­tions admire the GVSU sports program.

“We have all the respect you can have for what they’ve done and how they’ve done it over a long period of time,” Otterbein said. “We want to be them in terms of the success they have. Who wouldn’t want to be them? They have a decade of success. Dang, they are really good.”