Unfortunate is the one word coaches of the two college men’s basketball programs in the Quad-Cities agree on when describing the demise of a long-running series between Augustana and St. Ambrose.
The teams first met 100 years ago when Augustana won a 34-22 game, but this season’s Dec. 5 matchup between the Vikings and Fighting Bees at the Carver Center in Rock Island will be the last meeting between the two for the foreseeable future.
“It has been the type of series that has been beneficial to both programs,” St. Ambrose coach and director of athletics Ray Shovlain said. “It’s just unfortunate that it isn’t going to continue.”
Augustana announced Monday it was ending its participation in the series after this year’s game, citing NCAA Division III Tournament qualification criteria as its reasoning.
“We have been told twice in the last four years that we were among the final teams under consideration for an at-large berth, but we were left out because we did not play a full complement of Division III opponents,” Vikings coach Grey Giovanine said.
Win or lose, the NCAA does not allow games against non-NCAA institutions or teams in different divisions to count toward a team’s record when selection committees meet to determine postseason fields.
Augustana’s 19-7 record last season was viewed as an 18-7 record by the NCAA committee as it determined at-large entries into the Division III playoffs.
“At the end of the day, we have to do what is in the best interest of the student-athletes participating in our program who have a goal of playing in the NCAA Tournament,” Giovanine said. “I’ve been reluctant to go this route, but it’s unfortunate because it has been a terrific series filled with games of great interest.”
Shovlain learned of Augie’s decision Monday in a phone call from Giovanine.
“I feel bad about it because I think it has been a series that brings notoriety to basketball in the Quad-Cities and the athletes playing at both schools,” Shovlain said. “I think it has helped both of us get ready for our respective conferences.”
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Giovanine said Augustana will work to the fill the date with a Division III opponent, while Shovlain said his scheduling philosophy at his NAIA Division II school remains unchanged.
“We will continue to attempt to play the best possible competition regardless of level or national affiliations,” Shovlain said. “It’s just a shame that we will probably have to drive through Rock Island to get there when we have another quality program so close to home.”
St. Ambrose and Augustana have met 94 times over the years, and although the first game was played during the 1912-13 season the series has been an on-again, off-again proposition.
There was a stretch from 1927-48 and again from 1965-72 when the teams met at least twice each year, but there have also been lapses of 17 and 19 years when they did not play. The Bees and Vikings have met annually since 1991 except for the 2009-10 season when St. Ambrose stepped aside to allow Augustana to open a date to play at Division-I Gonzaga.
The Vikings lead the all-time series, 59-34.