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Causeway Classic: The Warm-Up

The UC Davis Dance Team practices for the Causeway Classic.

My name is Paulo Camacho, and this is Macho Sports.

There is nothing quite like a good college football rivalry. With its sights, sounds and traditions, the classic college football rivalry takes a life of its own. The epic competitions between schools are passed down from generation to generation, and offer its students the kind of spirit and pride that can only come from a gridiron grudge match. The traditions and stories that surround these games have shaped the identities of every school involved.

The decades have brought the populace with some of the greatest college football rivalries in sports history. The Red River Rivalry, for example, pits Texas against Oklahoma every year, in Dallas. Many of these games has decided an NCAA National Champion. The Big Game, with Stanford and Cal, is best known for the legendary “Stanford Band” Play in 1982. With a long, rich history of great players and even greater games, they are etched into college sports lore. It isn’t a stretch to say that rivalry games are the kinds that provide the very foundation for college football.

However, there is one such rivalry that takes place every year that many may not know about – at least, not outside of northern California. In fact, these two schools just happen to be in our own backyard.

The Causeway Classic, a rivalry game between the UC Davis Aggies and the Sacramento State Hornets, has gone on over a span of six decades. So named for the fact the two schools are separated by the Yolo Causeway, the rivalry began back in 1954, and the two teams have met, annually, ever since. This game, held at Aggie Stadium, would mark the 58th time UC Davis and Sacramento State would square off. In its 56-year history, the Aggies have dominated the all-time series, 39-18, racking up winning streaks of 18 (1970-1987) and 8 (2000-2007).

With the big game just days away, many of the UC Davis organizations were gearing up for the event. The Aggie Pack, for example, had been working diligently for weeks to prepare for the Classic. As the largest student spirit organization in the country, and an official department of UC Davis athletics, it is meant to promote school spirit through the 23 sports that are funded by the university. Led by a group of interns in the athletics department, the Aggie Pack can always be seen, among a sea of navy blue, in the stands at many of the school’s sporting events. You can usually find them riling up the crowd, leading cheers via bullhorn and sound system, and throwing out free party favors like tube socks, candy and bead necklaces.

Aside from the sporting events it attends, the Aggie Pack also organizes many of the rallies seen on campus. The Fall Welcome Rally, which saw over 6,000 participants, was arranged exclusively by Aggie Pack interns. While the organization has no official membership, it is no doubt encouraging to all of its student body, as well as its alumni and supporters. “Any student can be a member of the Aggie Pack,” said Emcee and Aggie Promotions intern Adam Darbonne. “All they need to do is wear Aggie blue and come to a game.”

In the days leading up to the Causeway Classic, the Aggie Pack had been doing all it could to publicize to the school and the community. Their responsibilities, at this point, included figuring out logistics for student ticket distribution; advertising through social networking sites like Facebook; and going out on campus to spread the word. “I was on campus yesterday, running around on a golf cart, promoting the game,” Darbonne said.

Darbonne, a UC Davis senior majoring in religious studies and history, had worked as an intern for the Aggie Pack for four years, and had come onto the emceeing job during his sophomore year. “Chris Perry, the old emcee, was graduating,” he explained. “So, they asked in one of our meetings, ‘Is there anybody here interested in emceeing? If not, we’ll start looking outside, as well.’ And I said, ‘I would like to give it a try.’”

From there, he was coached by Perry to perfect his craft at leading the Aggie Pack as emcee. He went on to host many events, including the UC Davis Dance Team Showcase at the end of every school year. “They really get to showcase all of their talents, because all of these girls are really incredible dancers,” he said. “They can do hip-hop, but they can also do tap. They can do all these different kinds of dance routines. They’re super fun to watch.”

The Dance Team’s high praise is well-deserved, as they have shown their dedication to UC Davis athletics time and time again. Team Captain Katrina Slemmons understands the importance of the Causeway Classic for the dance team, the community and the football team. “It’s our last home game, so we love that there’s going to be a lot of fans there,” Slemmons said. “After the win [on November 13 against Cal Poly], we’re excited for our football team, and hope that they can bring it out again.”

They were hard at work in preparation for the Causeway Classic, working on three different dance routines – two halftime performances, and a routine performed during the game’s third quarter. Interestingly enough, the Dance Team had been busy practicing a brand-new halftime routine for the Classic: a Bay Area-style hip-hop performance, choreographed by 3rd-year Dance Team member Giselle Ross.

“I’m really excited for the crowd to see it, and to show them a different style of dance that we are doing,” Ross said about her halftime routine. “[It’s] something we sometimes call ‘buck dancing,’ so it’s really high-energy.”

The dance team was also set to perform a song in the halftime show with the Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh. “We’re going to do a ‘Black Eyed Peas’ [song with the] Band-uh,” said 1st-year Dance Team member Laura Murrell. “That’s going to be really fun, because they love when we dance with them.”

The Aggie Band-uh gears up for Game Day.

While the Dance Team perfected their routines to work with the Band-uh, the Band-uh was doing the same to work with them. The Band-uh was preparing a “Black Eyed Peas”-centric show: featuring some of the popular band’s current hit singles, everyone involved was working hard to create a spectacle worthy of the Causeway Classic. In the days leading up to the game, the student directors had been constantly working on the halftime show. Drum Major Ryan Morrow had spent upwards of 15 hours putting it together, sacrificing sleep (and possibly midterms) to complete it. “We’ve been practicing the music for a couple weeks,” Morrow explained. “[This week,] we’ll [work on] moves and music, and [later] we’ll just polish it all up.”

Consequently, it was a coming-together for all of the student organizations, to make the Causeway Classic a memorable event. More and more, each of the groups have worked hard to work in a symbiotic relationship. “Every week, we’ve been having ABCD meetings: Aggie Pack, Band-uh, Cheer and Dance,” Morrow explained. “All four of the big spirit organizations are getting together, talking about what we’re going to do at games – how we can work together and support athletics.”

At sporting events, the various organizations have long supported each other in leading the crowd. The Dance Team, for example, has sometimes relied on Aggie Pack when their sports teams needed a morale boost. “We really look to [the Aggie Pack] during games to start cheers and to keep the crowd going,” said Ross. “[It] really helps us keep our energy up during games.”

Clara Hull, a 2nd-year Tenor Saxophone player for the Band-uh, shared the same sentiments about the Aggie Pack. “The band likes to have a lot of energy when we do things,” she said. “I think, a lot of times, if Aggie Pack is feeling so-so for the day, we give them a lot of energy. They see us dancing around, doing these cheers, and they really get into it, too. We work together.”

Ultimately, every organization involved was in great anticipation of the experience, participating in the Causeway Classic. With a matchup that contained so much history, it was difficult to find many who were not looking forward to the Causeway. “The Causeway Classic is a huge deal for the Aggie Pack,” Darbonne explained. “It’s a rivalry game. In terms of bringing UC Davis to the next level, rivalry games are just a blast … This game has a ton of history behind it, and so, for Aggie Pack, that’s one of the biggest things.”

The game, and the events that led up to it, meant many different things to different people. For Monique Dyquiangco, a 3rd-year Dance Team member, it was about the promotion of school spirit and unity. “Causeway Classic is a chance for us to show what we have, bring it to the students, [and] support our football team,” Dyquiangco explained. “It’s just a great way to unify our community, which is really cool … It brings a lot of [friends and] family together.”

Others, like Benjamin Aldridge, a senior from Band-uh, look at the Causeway Classic as further strengthening school pride. “We’re the spirit of the school when we’re out on the field, and when we’re going around, we’re really supposed to embody that spirit,” Aldridge said. “It’s really nice to see the whole school behind the football team … They’re out there to support [us], and show their pride in the school.”

But, mostly, the Causeway Classic represented a type of tradition and rivalry that could only be embodied on the gridiron. “I feel like it’s a kind of tradition that’s been passed down,” said Band-uh student director Arbel Bedak. “It’s always fun to have a rivalry with someone … It gives people a reason to get hyped up and get excited, geared up for it. It’s a lot of fun.”

“It was definitely my favorite football game from last year, just because there was so much intensity,” Hull stated about being at the Causeway Classic. “Yeah, we have a bitter rivalry with Sac State, but the football game is so much more fun to be a part of, when it’s so intense. It’s my favorite football game.

Aggie Pack alumni (from left) Brett Andersen, Naushad Ulhaq and Matt Stauffer.

Even alumni had a lot to say about the significance of the Causeway Classic. UC Davis alumni Matt Stauffer, Naushad Ulhaq and Brett Andersen reminisced about their experiences with the game, as members of the Aggie Pack in 2005 and 2006. Despite the fact that Stauffer and Andersen currently live in Southern California, they were anxious to come back into Davis, with a chance to witness the event.

“When you go to a school that’s not a big-time D-I athletics program, I think it’s really important that we still have those rivalries that you can still get really excited about,” said Stauffer, a current English major at USC. “It’s like a rallying point for the city and the university … It’s bragging rights throughout the season. It’s something you remember.”

Andersen, currently a graduate student at Cal Lutheran, still had the rivalry fresh in his mind, in the days leading up to the game. “When we played Sac State, we [usually] sent them home crying,” he recalled. “That was something we could be proud of.”

Memories of the Classic were also fresh in the minds of Stauffer and Ulhaq, a UC Davis grad student. They talked particularly about the 2006 Classic, when the Aggies beat the Hornets in the final season UC Davis football would be played in Toomey Field, 30-16. In the on-field celebration afterward, both were swept up in the team huddle, and touched the Causeway trophy. When asked about it, they recalled it as if it had happened yesterday.

“I ran out from the crowd, and I felt like something was carrying me forward,” Ulhaq explained. “I remember putting my hand up, pointing to the sky while running, and then turning around, realizing that I was at least 20 yards ahead of the rest of the crowd. Suddenly, the whole team seemed to gather around [Matt and I] … There was the trophy, being lifted up, and we put our hands up, and we actually touched the trophy. It was a great memory, and I’ll never forget it.”

“That’s a story that we’ll tell forever,” Stauffer added. “No one may care, like, ‘Oh, who’s Sac State?’ But, for us, when you were there, in the moment, that was all there was.”

“If you’re an Aggie,” Ulhaq stated, “it means something.”

With the anticipation growing for the Causeway Classic, everyone was ready for an epic game day, and the continuation of a long-awaited rivalry. Little did anyone know, however, that fate – and weather patterns – had other plans.

TO BE CONTINUED …

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