There's a fine line between bullying and academic discussion...
I started this thread because we seem to be overlooked on the Sun Belt board when a similar question was posed.
For me, it has to be one where it goes both ways. We get up for TCU (when they would actually play us), but I don't believe they have the same circle the calendar mentality. Same with SMU, too (I don't want to get into the whole Cross has elevated us beyond them and they know it).
For it to be a rivalry, there is a feeling that if you don't win much in the season, a win against that team makes it alright, or if you have a winning season (say 20 in basketball or 35 in baseball), but you lost to that team and there is some disappointment.
Geography play a factor. I believe this is obvious, without a need for an explanation.
Is the match-up lopsided? If one team never or very rarely wins, it is hard to be be rivals.
The final piece is do you play for something meaningful. Conference championships, postseason berths, trophies and bragging rights all have an impact in wanting to beat some teams more than normal.
Sadly, realignment has really hurt rivalries across the country. UTA is no exception. My today would have been different a couple of years ago and that would have been different from five years ago.
My picks for UTA's rivals in descending order:
10) New Mexico State - I debated putting Arkansas-Little Rock here, primarily because of the similarities between the Universities. But in the end, I just couldn't. I don't feel any of the reasons above when I think of the Trojans. Our mens basketball team hasn't lost to them in the few times we have played and baseball lost to them for the first time this year when we split the season series.
Meanwhile, we have played NMSU many times in a few sports and were conference mates this past year. We have only played two teams more in football and have faced them in double digits in basketball. In many ways, I am sad we were only conference mates for one year. They could have really moved up the list, especially after our tournament championship loss (they also ended our womens tournament too). Maybe one day they will rejoin the Belt. If they do, I would expect them to move up from 10.
9) Louisiana-Monroe - I really threw them a bone here. UTA, without football has a higher athletic budget than the Warhawks do. Beside the Kolton Browning year and a fluke in the 2012 baseball tournament, they haven't done much winning in any sport. The reason they appear on the list is their proximity and the fact they used to be in the Southland. There is some history, but it was usually along the lines of them smashing us or vice versa, not much in the way of anything else. With their low budget, I don't expect much to change.
8) Lamar - UTA has a long history with Lamar, and it is usually on the losing side. We were never really good in basketball for most of our history, and they were the bellwether of the SLC (21-53 all time). When we got really solid and competitive in baseball they were way better (40-76 all-time). Even in football, the opposite was true (16-6), despite Lamar being tied for first in the most games UTA played against one opponent. We never really played for anything meaningful, though the early aughts saw us and Lamar battling it out for the conference tournament crown it never really was sustained. Now, add in the fact we aren't in the same conference and they have fallen on this list.
7) UTSA - Another entry that would have been higher before realignment, UTSA is off to another conference and the likelihood of playing much in the future is really low. There never were many meaningful moments, though their level of competition was raised in the last few years. The match-ups were at least close: volleyball (27-17), mens basketball (30-37), womens basketball (30-26), baseball (43-30) and softball (31-44). There some great battles for the SLC's auto bid in womens basketball at the middle to end of the last decade. It really was us or them for a bit. I thought if we were able to get a football team around the same time they did, it could have really gone through the roof. As it is, they are now in CUSA and we are in the SBC.
6) Sam Houston - I am really trying to take my feelings out if it and produce what I think the players and admin feel. This may be an example where I didn't succeed. Despite some great mens basketball postseason battles, I never really felt much. Looking at the numbers, I don't know why. We have played them 69 times in volleyball, 56 in mens bball, 57 in womens, 99 in baseball and 94 in softball. Most series are fairly close, with the average in UTA's favor. I think part of it was that their overall athletic department favored football and mens basketball when I was a student, and most everything else wasn't competitive. They had become better overall in recent years, though.
5) Louisiana-Lafayette - This one moved up the list recently. I will totally admit this is the most biased entry. Their fans are the most insecure, cocky I have ever seen. Unlike Arkansas State, they are actively lobbying against the Sun Belt because they feel slighted about being passed over by C-USA. Calling the new Sun Belt Southland 2.0, I am really looking forward to taking their opinions down a peg or two. Most every sport but softball could and maybe should compete right away (their softball team is a CWS contender every year). Their success in the last two New Orleans Bowl has clouded their vision about their whole athletic department, which finished in the lower half of the Sun Belt's Bubba's (Commissioner's) Cup.
4) Arkansas State - I put this one so high for two reasons, the huge amount of history there, and potential for it to be revived in the very near future. First, the history. UTA played Arkansas State the most in football 22 (record is , 49 times in mens bball (13-36) and 68 times in baseball (35-33). Some of the most meaningful football games in SLC history were between these two, and the games were close. Arkansas earned the Pecan Bowl berth in 1968 beating UTA 21-20 in Arlington. That also snapped a 15-game home-winning-streak UTA had. If we had beaten them in 1969, we also would have been champs. There were some good games in the '70's, though nothing that decided a conference championship, but in 1984, had we beat them on homecoming, the SLC race is between us and Louisiana Tech, and a possible at-large to the 1-AA playoffs. The final kick to the crotch with salt on the tip of the boot at an open wound, Arkansas State uses some of the players UTA had to win the 1986 SLC title, one that UTA would have been favored in, according to the coaches (Scott Roper, UTA's kicker in 1985 still holds the ASU record for longest field goal).
In the near term, their basketball has improved, much like ours, so there will be potential for meaningful games. Baseball is lacking, but in that sport, one year can make a huge difference. Volleyball is average to above by Belt standards, which is better than us in recent memory, but if we improve, there is good potential there too. No softball, but I do like the relative proximity between the U's.
3) Stephen F Austin - One that would have been tops up until last year, SFA is the team most every sport circled. Great games in mens basketball, womens finally got the better of them in the mid-aughts on their way to postseason play, they upped the volleyball quality and competed with us for a bit, softball was a near even series between us (61-45). Cross and Kaspar really were two even matched generals when they met. I really feel that if we had a football team during their tenure, we would have been up there just as much with them as Sam Houston.
Then there is the intangibles. There was genuine hate and motivation on both sides. They were one of our most attended games in the last 20 years at Texas Hall. We were one of their higher games at Johnson. Bottom line, a 6-21 season felt alright if you beat SFA twice. Sadly, even playing them now will be a rarity, and maybe one day, folks like me will talk on the message boards, much like the Arkansas State guys do now about UTA, will tell the next ambivalent generation what used to be there.
2) Texas State - This one rivalry has benefited the most from realignment. They were with UTSA in helping us get to the WAC, and now that we are in the Sun Belt with them, they are the current longest-running conference rival, as they joined the SLC in 1987. We match-up well against each other: volleyball (40-22), mens basketball (27-30), womens basketball (27-32), baseball (38-56) and softball (58-48). None of those series is out-of-hand.
Their basketball team has suffered, but their new head coach is .... Danny Kaspar. Expect these two teams to hate each other quick. We lost to them in the baseball tournament to knock us out of the championship game. To any other team, it wouldn't have been that big a deal beyond the loss, but there was something extra in us losing to the Bobcats to keep us from getting the the tournament.
With them being the closest conference mate, the recipe is there for a true rivalry. If we start to play for something meaningful in the future, it will be something special. Unless something radical changes the current landscape, they are the only school capable of attaining number one.
1) North Texas - They may not be conference mates any more, they may not play us often anymore, but there is no love lost between these schools. It extends beyond athletics, because they are so close. In the workplace, "oh you went to UNT, bummer". When they do play, in whatever sport, it is one of the higher attended games of the year, if not the highest.
When it comes to record, UTA actually has the advantage, despite the superiority the UNTers project. Football, 3-9, volleyball 53-7, mens bball, 23-28, womens, 26-29, baseball, 21-1 (when they had a team) and softball, 25-15. All are close, except for volleyball, which heavily favors us. Basketball has been in our favor. Our women's team won seven games last year, one was UNT, and that made it alright.
It even extends to the scheduling. We stuck to our guns this year about UNT honoring our agreement to play. Normal scheduling issues don't make papers in this market, but that did draw headlines.
Bottom line, our proximity to each other, and the fact that most alums of both schools stay in this area, this rivalry will continue to be a hot one, even if the teams don't physically play very often. When they do...watch out. it will be a circle the calendar game.