Lebanon Valley College and Franklin and Marshall no longer compete against one another in men’s basketball. And quite frankly, that is a shame.
Because Lebanon Valley basketball is just a little less inspired, a little less inspiring.
The 2011-12 season marked the second straight year in which the Flying Dutchmen and Diplomats did not meet on the hardwoods. In its heyday, the Lebanon Valley-F&M series was nothing short of the most important rivalry on the Flying Dutchmen’s schedule.
“It’s not as important as it was,” said Lebanon Valley head coach Brad McAlester in an exclusive interview with Lebanon Sport Buzz. “Your league games are more important. Games like Elizabethtown matter. These days, to get into the NCAA (Division Three) tournament, you’ve got to win your league.”
Prior to 2009-10, LVC and F&M had met almost annually for more than seven decades – and sometimes twice or three times in a season. In all, the Flying Dutchmen and Diplomats played 144 times.
F&M leads the all-time series 80-63.
“Now there are more important rivals,” said McAlester. “Games against Elizabethtown, Albright, Messiah. Those are teams in our conference that are somewhat close.”
There was a time when Lebanon Valley and Franklin and Marshall were members of the same athletic conference, and the two programs would also play outside of the league. Even after the two programs moved into different conferences, LVC and F&M kept their rivalry alive by playing on the Tuesdays before Thanksgiving.
“I think it was more important for the coaches than the players,” said McAlester. “We used to play them in a tournament and in the conference. So it was a conference game. And it was a local conference game. When I first started, those games were packed. Today our guys don’t really know about F&M.
“They were always physical games,” McAlester continued. “They (the Diplomats) were always physical. So you had to match their physicality. Those games were always tough and tense. They (the Dips) were always good. Anytime you beat them you knew you beat one of the top teams in the country.”
So what happened to end the rivalry? Scheduling difficulties ultimately ended it. With each program facing growing responsibilities to their respective conferences, both simply ran out of games on their schedules.
“It’s definitely a scheduling issue,” said McAlester. “It was a great time for both schools. We just couldn’t find a compatible date. There was no way around it. We’ll see what happens in the future. If we can work it out, we’ll work it out.”
If the LVC-F&M rivalry was to resume, it could be played later in the season, like in January or February. What the programs would like to avoid is making it the third game in any particular week.
“I wouldn’t mind playing them again,” said McAlester. “But it’s got to fit into our schedule and it’s got to fit into their’s. I’m not going to jeopardize our league schedule and he’s (F&M head coach Glen Robinson) not going to jeopardize his.
“There’s always a chance,” McAlester added. “We’re at 22 games and we have three non-conference games (outside of tournaments). It’s a matter if we can fit it in.”