Commentary

Top five rivalries in college sports

Updated: February 10, 2012, 11:03 AM ET
By Dick Vitale | ESPN.com

I have often been asked about great rivalries in sports.

To me, a rivalry features two teams or schools that are close in proximity. They have a fierce dislike for each other. Each should be good at what they do and prove competitive. Competing at a high level makes games in their series more meaningful.

People have always debated over which rivalry is the best. Is it the Yankees and Red Sox in baseball? What about Duke and North Carolina on the college hardwood? There are some bitter match-ups on the gridiron as well.

My friends, I am a college analyst, so I am going to lay on you may top five rivalries in major college athletics. I am sure that some people will disagree with me, but that is the beauty of sports. Some people loved Mickey Mantle, others went for Willie Mays, another group sided with Duke Snider.

Here we go:

1. Duke-North Carolina basketball
The Austin Rivers shot at Chapel Hill on Wednesday simply added to the legacy of great moments. These two schools are separated by just eight miles in Tobacco Road country, and each time these squads meet, there is so much excitement in the air. It takes over the Triangle region and there is usually a lot at stake. There have been many meetings were each was ranked among the top 10 in the nation. There have been real battles, with blood (see Eric Montross), near brawls, and pulsating endings. You have had legendary coaches on the sidelines, placement in the ACC standings on the line, and so much passion involved. There is so much pride on the line.

[+] EnlargeOhio State/Michigan
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesRivals Michigan and Ohio State have met more than 100 times on the gridiron.

2. Ohio State-Michigan football
I just reflect back on the days of Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes and remember how many times this rivalry determined a Big Ten champion and Rose Bowl participant. Of course, there is no love lost in this rivalry either, and there have been many memorable moments. People talk about individual game-changing plays for years to come, and with Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke going at it now, the intensity should rise up again!

3. Louisville-Kentucky basketball
It is a sea of blue and a sea of red in the stands. Kentucky basketball fans are the most passionate in all of college sports and big blue nation cannot wait for the annual showdown. It has been magnified further with the coaching battle between Rick Pitino and John Calipari. It has been special seeing the Bluegrass State divided, rooting for these two potential powers.

4. Auburn-Alabama football
I know there is a lot of hatred in this rivalry, but SEC football is so tough, and there are a lot of meaningful games on the schedule. I am sure people from the great state of Alabama will disagree with me having them fourth on this list.

5. Kansas-Missouri basketball
I recently attended the Border War in Columbia and it is so sad to see this showdown coming to an end. Kansas people are upset with the decision of Missouri to leave for the SEC. I understand the feeling, but this rivalry is so good for the fans, players, alumni and media. It has tremendous intensity and I do not believe fans in the East, South or West truly understand how bitter the feelings are between the fans and people involved with the two schools. It is a rivalry that will be missed.

I considered several others, but these five stand out to me. They are special, emotional and important to the landscape of college athletics. There is still nothing like North Carolina and Duke going at it on the hardwood, baby!

Dick Vitale

College Basketball analyst
Dick Vitale, college basketball's top analyst and ambassador, joined ESPN during the 1979-80 season. His thorough knowledge of the game is brought forth in an enthusiastic, passionate style. Vitale also contributes columns to ESPN.com.