Great college rivalries tend to emerge when two schools of similar size and quality are located near one another and compete against each other in academics and athletics. California’s large number of elite universities makes the state an ideal breeding ground for terrific rivalries. Although the most famous California college rivalries pit PAC-12 members against one another, a few smaller conference match-ups also deserve recognition.
USC versus UCLA
The University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles were born to be rivals. They both rank among the largest universities and among the best academic centers in the country. They also share the city of Los Angeles, one of the largest and most important cultural centers in the United States. As a result, both schools receive more than their fair share of media attention. Even better, they share a premier athletic conference in the PAC-12. There is one big difference between these elite institutions, however: UCLA is a public school, while USC is private. That big difference supercharges the rivalry and makes every football and basketball match-up a must-see event. In football, the annual winner of the rivalry game wins the coveted “Victory Bell” trophy.
Stanford versus Berkeley
Even though Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley are better known for their academic programs than their athletic achievements, students at each school still get pumped up for every game between these academic superpowers. The two colleges compete for the best students in the country and love to throw down on the gridiron and the basketball court. Like UCLA and USC, both schools compete in the elite PAC-12 conference and their games are frequently aired on national television. In 1982, Berkeley won the big rivalry football game after the Stanford marching band ran onto the field prematurely while a Berkeley back completed an incredible run for a touchdown.
San Diego versus San Diego State
Even though San Diego is known for its relaxing beaches, there’s no relaxing when San Diego and San Diego State face off in athletics. These two party schools are located in the same city, but there’s no love lost between them. Both schools have fielded excellent basketball teams in recent years, and although their football programs rarely garner national attention their games are always ferocious and fun to watch. The drama of the rivalry is enhanced by the close proximity of the schools. San Diego State is just a few miles down the road from the University of San Diego. Adding to the drama, San Diego State is a public school while the University of San Diego is private.
UC-Irvine versus California State University, Long Beach
Known as the “Black and Blue Series,” Long Beach State and UC-Irvine have been doing battle in all major college sports for decades. Irvine and Long Beach are both large cities near Los Angeles, but neither school gets the national attention that USC and UCLA have earned. That lack of attention only seems to make the rivalry fiercer, however. Every year the schools track their victories over the other in sports like basketball, baseball and volleyball. At the end of the year, the school with the most wins is awarded a surfboard trophy.