Madison Halvorson

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Lisa Vance visited friends at UC Santa Barbara the weekend before Halloween this year. She made the mistake of parking in Isla Vista with a Cal Poly Mustangs sticker and license plate frame on the back of her car.

“We came back at 2 a.m., and someone had let the air out of my tires,” Vance, an environmental engineering junior, said.

According to Vance, many Cal Poly students have learned not to park their cars in Isla Vista if they have Cal Poly stickers. They’ve found out the hard way that their windows might be broken, their mirrors smashed or their roof dented.

“I couldn’t believe it; we were only gone for about five hours,” she said. “My friends were like, ‘Well, we probably shouldn’t have parked right in (Isla Vista) with Cal Poly stuff on your car.’ Especially so close to the soccer game.”

On the surface, the Blue-Green Rivalry dates back to Oct. 17, 2007, when Cal Poly men’s soccer head coach Paul Holocher and his team broke the attendance record for a Cal Poly soccer match, as well as a 12-match losing streak against UC Santa Barbara. More than 7,000 people showed up to watch what would grow into the now-well-known Blue-Green Rivalry. The Mustangs won that night, 2-1.

“The next year, we had 11,000 people,” Holocher told Mustang News in an interview before this year’s UC Santa Barbara game. Since 2008, four of the last six Blue-Green Rivalry games in San Luis Obispo have sold out. In the same article, Athletics Director Don Oberhelman said the rivalry was virtually nonexistent prior to that match.

But the Blue-Green Rivalry actually dates back almost 100 years, to UC Santa Barbara’s first-ever recorded sporting event, a 42-0 football loss to Cal Poly in 1921.

Since that blowout, the Gauchos and the Mustangs have competed in more than just sports; from academics to college-town culture, the Blue-Green Rivalry is a competition to be the best university on the Central Coast.

Mustangs vs. Gauchos

Drew Murphy is a freshman on the soccer team at UC Santa Barbara. Though he’s only seen the rivalry in action for a few months, he said he already understands the impact of the Blue-Green Rivalry on his campus. Murphy said weeklong festivities led up to the UC Santa Barbara vs. Cal Poly soccer match in Goleta on Nov. 9.

“The Manglers will be there in full force supporting our boys. It’s going to be loud, it’s going to be crazy, and it’s going to be oh-so-sweet when we rush their field and see their stands silent, faces full of disappointment. We have unfinished business to take care of on Saturday.”
— Kean Vaziry, Mustang Manglers president

“This is one game that everyone gets up for,” Murphy said. “There’s a huge presence for this game in particular, and it’s the game where we get record-breaking crowds. Everybody wants to go to this one. It’s talked up all week; it’s already in the papers. And that’s because of the rivalry. We have to beat Cal Poly at our place.”

Though the soccer match is the biggest sporting event of the year, Murphy said the rivalry draws fans for other teams too, including basketball and swimming.

“If basketball comes here, they’ll get a great turn out, just because it’s Cal Poly and it’s the Blue-Green Rivalry.  It pulls bigger crowds and gets people more hyped for the games — for every sport. The swim team recently had a meet against Cal Poly, and everybody was like, ‘This is a meet we have to win.’”

Agricultural business senior Simon Laub is a goal keeper for the club hockey team at Cal Poly. He said the Blue-Green Rivalry runs deeper than soccer. But he doesn’t think it divides the schools; rather, it connects them.

“As far as talent goes, UCSB and Cal Poly are very similar,” Laub said. “We have strong clubs. We’ve both been around since the early ’90s, which is probably longer than most schools.”

“To UCSB students, I think we’re kind of like the neighbor to the north,” he said. “I think there’s definitely a rivalry, but it’s kind of a friendly rivalry. We’re the closest big universities around, and so with that I think there’s a little bit of respect between the two.”

Laub attended the UC Santa Barbara game at Cal Poly again this year — the third game he’s seen while at Cal Poly — but was disappointed by the tie.

“Compared to other rivalry games, it was not as fun. I remember my sophomore or junior year, we rushed the field after the golden goal in overtime. That was my first big Cal Poly event, so that was very cool.”

Stacie Rancano, a graduate student at Cal Poly, has fond memories of Blue-Green Rivalry soccer games from her time as an undergraduate at UC Santa Barbara.

“It was usually just during soccer that you really saw that green versus blue separation; people yelling at each other, throwing tortillas,” she said. “I was definitely the one wearing my ‘Wear Gold, Bleed Blue’ shirt. I actually don’t notice [the rivalry] as much here, unless it’s actually at a soccer game. I feel like that mentality is a lot more prominent at UCSB.”

Rancano was worried about Blue-Green animosity when she moved up to San Luis Obispo to go to graduate school, driving her car on campus with a “UCSB Alumni” license plate holder on the back.

“I was nervous that something was going to happen to me or my car, but when I got here I found out it’s not as prominent,” Rancano said. “I mean, you get some of those radical students that will throw water bottles at you.”

One of Rancano’s fellow UC Santa Barbara alum, who also is a Cal Poly graduate student, had a frozen water bottle thrown at her car, possibly because she had a UC Santa Barbara sticker on it. Rancano hasn’t personally experienced that type of aggressive behavior, but she said it probably happens a lot more often in Santa Barbara to Cal Poly alumni.

‘Total mayhem’

“In Santa Barbara we have Isla Vista, which is an entirely different animal,” Rancano said. “I don’t see it as prominently here, in terms of on-campus nightlife. Here, the party life is not as close. You don’t have an Isla Vista adjacent to campus. Though there is nightlife here, I think it was more prominent at UCSB.”

Murphy agreed the party culture at UC Santa Barbara is well-known, and the students seem to embrace debauchery.

“UCSB dominates most schools in that reputation,” he said. “When most people think of UC Santa Barbara, they think it’s a party school — a crazy party school. I know a lot of people from Cal Poly come down here just for that, especially on weekends like Halloween.”

Laub agreed the party culture is different at Cal Poly than at UC Santa Barbara, which is why Cal Poly students like to go visit. He said there’s little animosity between the two schools outside of soccer season, and Cal Poly students and UC Santa Barbara students commingle often.

“We’re so close that we used to have a home-and-home pre-season tournament (for the hockey club). We’d go down there on Friday night, play against them, they’d come up here on Saturday morning, play against us. It was spirited; everyone brought their friends. It was a full arena. After the game we’d all go out to Isla Vista with the UC Santa Barbara team and party with them,” Laub said.

Laub said the Santa Barbara he knows best, outside of Goleta and Isla Vista, have a much different feel than the college party scene. He said having so many students in such a small area so close to campus amplifies the party culture.

“It’s just crazy. I think it’s definitely close enough where if people want to get out of town for the weekend, they can go, and they know it’s going to be a guaranteed party. Every time I’ve been there, I’ve run into kids from class. I’m like, ‘Hey, what are you doing here?’ When you’re in Isla Vista, it’s kind of just total mayhem.”

UC Santa Barbara is ranked No. 2 on Princeton Review’s list of the Top 20 “Party Schools” in the nation, as well as No. 5 on the “Reefer Madness” list, No. 3 on the “Lots of Liquor” list and No. 5 on the “Happiest Students” list.

Tomato, to-Motto

Though UC Santa Barbara has Cal Poly beat in terms of party culture, the two universities are still a close match for prospective students, according to Mission Prep’s Assistant Principal of Academics, Jennifer Chassman. She said depending on the program the student is pursuing, from an academic perspective, the choice between Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara is a toss up.

“We probably have about 20 to 30 percent of the senior class each year apply to Cal Poly,” Chassman said. “We’ve had strong students get into Santa Barbara and not Cal Poly, and vice versa, depending on the programs they’re applying to.”

U.S. News & World Report has ranked Cal Poly No. 1 in the Top Regional Public Colleges in the Western United States in their Best Colleges guide, and it has achieved this ranking for 20 consecutive years. UC Santa Barbara, on the other hand, was ranked No. 11 by U.S. News & World Report in its list of Top Public Schools in the nation.

According to UC Santa Barbara’s website, out of 55,249 applicants, 24,622 were admitted — a 45 percent acceptance rate. The average GPA of the Fall 2012 class was 3.91. According to the Cal Poly admissions website, out of 40,402 applicants, 13,939 were selected — a 35 percent acceptance rate, with an average GPA of 3.96.

Chassman said the two universities are similar but, at the same time, incomparable.

“I just think they’re two different worlds,” she said. “And my inclination is to push kids to broaden their worlds. So then, in theory, I would say, ‘Try Santa Barbara. It’s not far, but it’s far enough. Day to day, your interactions are going to be with new people.’ But it’s very difficult for me to overlook that there’s a world-class university in our backyard. How can I say to kids, don’t think about Cal Poly, when they can have great professors and great experiences and learn a lot and become successful in whatever they study, and it’s right here? It’s a great option for them.”

Associate Director of Admissions Terrance Harris spent seven years recruiting for Cal Poly. He’s seen hundreds of prospective students decide which college is right for them.

“They’re thinking of the opportunities they’re going to have in the classroom,” he said. “They’re thinking of overall atmosphere. They’re asking themselves, ‘What’s the school going to be like? What’s my experience going to be like?’ Those are the overwhelming things that students focus on. ‘What’s my experience going to be like? What’s my success going to be like?’ And I think we’ve done extremely well with our students graduating and being successful, and we’ve created a strong student experience here, too.”

Nicole Wong, an admissions counselor and coordinator in the Visitor Center at UC Santa Barbara, said she sees prospective students compare Cal Poly and UC Santa Barbara closely with regard to certain majors.

“Students interested in engineering will definitely apply to Cal Poly, which has an excellent, well-known engineering program. But so do we. It really depends on what the student wants. Cal Poly offers aeronautical and civil engineering, and we don’t offer those concentrations. But we offer a five-year BS Engineering/MS Materials Program, and you don’t offer that,” Wong said. “It’s difficult to make a cut-and-dry comparison between the two universities. There are certain things that you do that we don’t do. And vice versa.”

Harris said the biggest difference he sees that distinguishes Cal Poly from UC Santa Barbara is right in the motto: Learn By Doing.

“I think that’s what we hang our hat on here. The interaction in the classroom, the ability to do what you’re learning, rather than just hearing about it or reading it in a book,” Harris said.

Central Coast showdown

Murphy said he couldn’t deny both universities are great, and he has many friend — even relatives — that go to Cal Poly. He also said he knows attending UC Santa Barbara was the right decision.

“San Luis Obispo is a nice area, and Cal Poly is great school, but the vibe here in Santa Barbara is unbeatable,” he said.

Though Laub still calls Santa Barbara home, he’s also happy with the university he chose. He did consider attending UC Santa Barbara, but spending the past four and a half years in San Luis Obispo? He “wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

“I applied to both schools and got into both. I think as far as education goes, it really depends on what you’re majoring in. I know I got a better agricultural education here at Cal Poly than I would’ve gotten at UC Santa Barbara.”

Both universities, blue and green, will be watching the Mustangs and Gauchos go head-to-head in Santa Barbara on Nov. 9. Who will win this round of the Central Coast Showdown? Mustang Manglers president Kean Vaziry said the club can’t wait to cheer on the Mustangs in another Blue-Green Rivalry match, and hopefully rush the field at Harder Stadium. Again.

“The Manglers will be there in full force supporting our boys. It’s going to be loud, it’s going to be crazy, and it’s going to be oh-so-sweet when we rush their field and see their stands silent, faces full of disappointment,” Vaziry  said. “We have unfinished business to take care of on Saturday.”

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