Two of the Midwest's top Catholic colleges haven't competed in football for 20 years.
That will change on Sept. 11, 2004, when the St. Ambrose Fighting Bees face off on the gridiron against the Loras College Duhawks in Dubuque.
"It's a natural rivalry," says SAU Athletic Director Ray Shovlain. "We're within 70 miles of each other. Their alumni know our alumni, their students know ours."
The revival of the matchup is the result of a conference change, Shovlain says. Upper Iowa College left the Iowa Conference, leaving Loras with an open date on its football schedule. "We moved a couple of games around so we can play them. We now have a two-year agreement," he says.
St. Ambrose currently owns the overall series with a 25-19-4 edge over the Duhawks.
SAU football coach Todd Sturdy plans to work hard with his team to continue the winning tradition.
"We've had some good teams, and four straight conference championships," he says. "We went to the Elite Eight in the national championship last season. Loras had a good year as well. We feel it'll be a good matchup."
The spirited battle between the Bees and Duhawks is new to Sturdy and the recent Fighting Bees squads, but former St. Ambrose football standout and coach Leo Kilfoy '51 remembers the competitions fondly.
"With Loras, we probably had the number one rivalry in the Midwest," Kilfoy says. "Small colleges never get front page coverage in the Des Moines Register. One-half of the front page of the sports section was on the Ambrose-Loras game in 1950."
Kilfoy also remembers the great fan following of the Ambrose-Loras contests.
"We played Loras at John O'Donnell Stadium in 1948. The stadium was full," he says.
The winning team took possession of a victory trophy with the game scores on it. The trophy was donated by a St. Ambrose graduate from Chicago.
"It has a big bell off of a (World War II) Japanese medical ship," Kilfoy says. "The ship was captured and he took it. He donated it to the Chicago Club, a group of St. Ambrose alumni from Chicago. They put the trophy together."
While the victory bell tradition may not be renewed with the SAU-Loras football rivalry, the game is sure to conjure up many old stories for St. Ambrose alumni and create new memories for current students.