Devils or Diplomats: Who Is Gettysburg College’s Biggest Athletic Rival?
By Garrett Glaeser, Sports Editor
Though conference championships and national playoffs are the ultimate goal for every Gettysburg team, a season is not complete without a matchup against its two biggest rivals: Dickinson and Franklin & Marshall. Often times a win over either or both schools in a season is remembered more than any postseason accomplishments. Even better is a championship won by beating the Red Devils or Diplomats.
The Orange and Blue has won 104 conference championships since the Centennial Conference expanded to include all sports in 1991, amounting to an average of nearly four titles every year. Four Bullets’ teams have won ten or more – Women’s Golf (10), Men’s Lacrosse (15), Women’s Lacrosse (12), Men’s Swimming (15), and Women’s Swimming (14).
Even before the Centennial Conference’s formal founding in 1981 as a football-only conference, Gettysburg has a long and storied tradition of rivalries with Dickinson and Franklin & Marshall. Ask anyone on Gettysburg’s campus and they’ll probably say the Bullets’ biggest rival is either Dickson or F&M. Ask anyone on Dickinson or Franklin and Marshall’s campuses and they’ll probably say the same.
The triangular rivalry between the three small private colleges, known as the “Little Three,” resembles the nationally famous rivalry between Michigan, Ohio State, and Penn State in that each time the schools face one another it is heated and intense.
From an institutional standpoint, the three colleges largely attract and compete for the same students, and their enrollments are nearly identical. In the Wall Street Journal’s annual college ranking report, Franklin & Marshall came in a No. 91, while Dickinson and Gettysburg were not far behind at No. 100 and 101, respectively.
In proximity, however, the rivalry lends itself to comparison with the famous Tobacco Road rivalry between four North Carolina universities – Duke, North Carolina, NC State, and Wake Forest. Carlisle is just over 30 miles to the north of Gettysburg and Lancaster is 54 miles east. Despite the relative proximity, each college resides in a different county: Gettysburg in Adams, Dickinson in Cumberland, and Franklin & Marshall in Lancaster.
The rivalry is also unique in that the mascots for each college are incredibly unique. Gettysburg is the only institution of higher learning with the Bullets as their mascot. The same can be said for the Diplomats of Franklin & Marshall. And Dickinson only shares its Red Devil mascot with the little known Allen Community College in Iola, Kansas.
When it comes to institutional history, Dickinson, founded in 1773, takes the cake by just fourteen years with Franklin & Marshall being established in 1787. Gettysburg, then Pennsylvania College, wasn’t founded for nearly another half century in 1832.
Though today the Little Three rivalry encompasses all sports, it has its strongest roots in football. Each game between the colleges has its own history and trophy.
When Gettysburg battles Dickinson early in the season, they fight for the Little Brown Bucket, a part of the rivalry since 1938 when the trophy was created by S. Walter Stauffer and George Hummel, members of the Board of Trustees of their respective institutions.
Gettysburg versus Franklin & Marshall, a game that had been historically played on Thanksgiving Day and now is the last conference game for both schools, is a battle for the Lincoln Trophy. Known as “The Hat” until 2014, the trophy resembles the famous top hat donned by President Lincoln.
The game between Dickinson and Franklin & Marshall dates back to the 1880s, when the teams would travel by Conestoga Wagons to play each other. Today the victor of the game takes home the Conestoga Wagon trophy.
In recent years, both men’s and women’s lacrosse appear to be the sport that all three schools excel at the most on a national level. This past year all three reached a national ranking within the top 15 on the men’s side and the top 25 on the women’s. The Centennial Conference is seen as among the best and most competitive top to bottom for lacrosse, viewed as just below the powerhouse NESCAC (Northeastern Small College Athletic Conference).
Roughly 50 Bullets athletes representing all teams were surveyed to see with which of the rivals they felt Gettysburg has the bigger rivalry. In addition, they were asked which Centennial Conference opponent is the toughest for their particular sport.
Half of those surveyed indicated Dickinson to be Gettysburg’s biggest rival but nearly the same amount indicated Franklin & Marshall to be. Only a few indicated that McDaniel and Washington College are Gettysburg’s biggest rivals. Though the data proved inconclusive on who truly is Gettysburg’s bigger rival, those surveyed said as long as the Bullets come out on top, such particulars don’t matter.
Not surprising was the data that revealed Hopkins to the toughest conference opponent for most sports. The Blue Jays excel at nearly all sports but have been nearly unbeatable in men’s and women’s tennis as well as track & field. (Hopkins lacrosse is Division I and plays in the Big Ten Conference).
The Centennial Conference is widely recognized in the Division III sports landscape as among the best and most well rounded conferences for its academic and athletic achievements. Now, in the 28th year of conference play, Gettysburg athletes continue to pose a threat to win championships and defeat the Red Devils and Diplomats on every occasion they get.
This article originally appeared on pages 16-17 of the October 31, 2019 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.