Sarah Kocher

For the first time in years, the Augustana vs. University of Sioux Falls basketball games are being held at a place other than the Sioux Falls Arena. The Cougars are coming to Augustana’s Elmen Center, and the Augieholics are preparing themselves.

Fans this year are backed by a slogan that really says something: something about metal hardware supplies, a large tan cat and a basketball rivalry several years in the making.

On Dec. 8, Augustana College will play its biggest rival in both boys and girls basketball.

Augustana’s women and men’s basketball teams will take on USF at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively, on Dec. 8 in the Elmen Center.

“It’s as natural a rivalry as you could think up,” said Augustana women’s head coach Dave Krauth. “Same conference, same city, [and] we often recruit the same players.” Students and athletes who grow up in Sioux Falls know each other for years before they attend the rival universities.

The rivalry will show up in full force next Saturday, Dec. 8. Augustana fans are encouraged to don their anti-Cougar shirts and participate in this year’s theme: A sea of blue.

Augustana senior Aaron Bauer is in charge of this year’s rivalry shirt, a navy number on which a yellow cougar with a large screw punching through its torso and this year’s motto, #ScrewTheCoo, is printed.

“Shirts have become sort of a tradition for the USF game,” Bauer said. “[They] were made to provide students with a piece of memorabilia to wear.” Blue rally towels will be handed out for the game, contributing even further to the planned blue-out.

Augustana students are not the only ones eager for a sea of blue. Head men’s coach Tom Billeter is keen for blue-clad fans as well. “I hope our Augieholics plus all the other students show up in full force,” Billeter said. “They are a huge part of our home court advantage.”

USF women’s coach Travis Traphagen is also excited about the atmosphere. “You really cherish any time for your kids to walk into a gym and the place is packed,” he said, no matter whether the fans are wearing blue or purple.

USF junior women’s basketball player Paige Burkett is also expecting an electric atmosphere. “It’s a game that everyone looks forward to all year,” she said.

Traphagen, however, is excited to come to the Elmen Center for another reason. It will be his first time back in Augustana’s gym since he was the assistant women’s basketball coach on this side of 26th street.

Traphagen said that this return adds a whole new dynamic to the game, as each coach knows a little about the other’s methods. To Traphagen, this rivalry is about more than just basketball; it’s about “great friends and great respect.”

And while that may be the case, fans are still turning up to see what each team can do on the court. Traphagen, Billeter and Krauth all acknowledge that this game has the potential to be a very close match-up. “We still have a ways to go, but our kids are going to come to compete,” Traphagen said.

With Augustana men looking to repeat a win, USF women hoping to follow up last year’s Augustana defeat with another one, and fans on both sides rallied for an intense game of basketball, Traphagen sums it all up in one phrase: “It should be a good game.”

Admission is free to Augustana and USF students and have increased from $12 to $20 for adults.