One of the greatest college rivalries is about to be taken up a notch this weekend, as Michigan State takes on Michigan at Cooley Law School Stadium on Friday October 19 at 7pm in the Battle for the Mitten. The game will be broadcast through Next Level Rugby, and commentated by Matt McCarthy and Ryan Ginty.
Both teams have rich and storied histories dating back over fifty years. The two schools have played each other on countless occasions, but this year’s iteration promises to be the biggest yet, as the two teams face off in the first ever Battle for the Mitten.
While the game between the two teams is nothing new, for Michigan State’s President, Josh Ressio, something had been missing from the rivalry. That something, was the big game atmosphere that surrounded the interschool rivalry in nearly every other sporting arena.
“The main motivation for this event was this game, every year, our biggest game is against Michigan,” noted Ressio. “We understood we had a following and rugby is growing to where there was potential to have a large-scale event.”
It is one thing to see the potential, but to harness it is something completely different. However, this hasn’t been an issue for the teams and they have been able to turn their vision into a reality. They were able to lock down Cooley Law Stadium as the location, home to the minor league baseball team: The Lansing Lugnuts.
“Cooley Law School Stadium became the perfect venue,” started Ressio. “It started with a simple meeting, I pitched to them what college rugby is, how its growing and how many people I could get into the stadium- and they took the chance.”
The chance seems to be paying big dividends already, as expected ticket sales are sitting around the 3,000 mark. Many of the expected fans are coming through the gates have been attracted to the match, not only from the fierce rivalry and the chance to see their team beat their most despised opponents, but also to enjoy the activities surrounding the event.
“A big thing for us is we have a lot of people reaching out to us, who for them, this will be their first rugby game,” said Ressio. “We are having a youth clinic before it. We want to be a chance to grow the sport in Michigan and show people how great of a sport rugby is.” The Youth clinic is being put on in conjunction with Rugby Michigan and Conquest Fitness.
As for the game itself, it promises to be a match worthy of its spectacle. Michigan State has been one of the most dominant teams in the Big Ten this year, going 3-1 on the season and their only loss coming at the hands of the competition leading Wisconsin Badgers. Michigan, hasn’t been as hot, but after a win last weekend against Illinois their season looks to be turning around.
“Over the past two years, even as we have been a little bit better than Michigan, they always bring their best when they play us. It is always a tough game. I would put us as the favorites, but they’ll come out strong and it’s going to be a tough game.”
The Battle for the Mitten, is promising to be an excellent showcase of collegiate rugby and a worthy showcase for such a long and storied rivalry.