Why We Must Protect The East/West BBQ Bowl

One of college football's budding and unique rivalries falls victim to conference realignment. Here's why that should not be the case.

The East-West BBQ Bowl Trophy
Source: Gardner-Webb Athletic Department and North State Journal

Campbell’s exit from the Big South is common knowledge at this point and while this shuffling of conferences is not as earth-shattering as other moves it is still shocking. Campbell’s short time both as a Big South member and football program in general lessened the blow. However, one rivalry may still fall victim to this move.

Last season, Gardner-Webb and Campbell christened their rivalry the East/West BBQ Bowl. The rivalry brought out the integral part that BBQ has in North Carolina's state culture. The two schools commissioned the “Hog Trophy” as the reward for the victor as the Camels beat the Bulldogs 42-28 in the inaugural BBQ Bowl. Now after one year, the rivalry may now only be a rare occurrence.

Despite having only four meetings between them, the BBQ Bowl represents everything that's good about college football. It is a point of local pride for both schools and has the regional flare that has always made college football unique. On top of that, it had a unique trophy to give it a level of pageantry.

Now, Campbell trades in this rivalry with Gardner-Webb for new series with schools such as Richmond and William & Mary in what seems to be an upgrade. However, the CAA is filled with schools that have around a century of football tradition that likely think of Campbell as an afterthought due to their relative lack of history and tradition. While Campbell may view the CAA’s Southern schools as rivals it may take a while before the feeling is reciprocated.

On the other hand, Gardner-Webb’s only other chance at a meaningful rival is Charleston Southern who they have played every year since 2002, but the cultural impact is not as big, despite the schools residing in bordering states. Of course, the BBQ Bowl can continue as a non-conference game, but both schools will likely have limited space on their non-conference schedule, especially Campbell, who becomes the CAA’s 15th football member.

Despite the conference's relatively young age, the Big South was not immune to conference realignment killing their rivalries. Campbell and Gardner-Webb had something unique going, but now it may be lost forever.