What does former middleweight boxing legends Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta have in common?
Both men fought each other for the middleweight championship belt an astonishing six times with Robinson winning five of the six bouts between the two legends.
The Mount Union-Wisconsin-Whitewater rivalry is nearly reminiscent of this boxing rivalry. Only Friday evening, the two foes will renew their acquaintances with each other for a seventh consecutive year in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl going back to the 2005 season.
Although the rivalry is not as one-sided but competitive as the Robinson-LaMotta rivalry, there have been hotly competitive contests between the two with Mount Union winning 35-28 in 2005, 35-16 in 2006, and 31-26 in 2008 and Whitewater winning titles by scores of 31-21 in 2007, 38-28 in 2009, and 31-21 last season. Mount Union has won their three battles by an average of 10.3 and Whitewater have won their respective battles by an average of 10 points.
Mount Union obviously is in the role of Robinson when you look at the 10 national championships won in the long tenure of legendary coach Larry Kehres whereas Whitewater is in the role of LaMotta, which may be favorable to head coach Lance Leipold.
Both coaches are respective graduates of their institutions. Both coaches have coached outstanding student-athletes. Both are supported by outstanding administrations and student bodies.
It is only fitting that Friday night on ESPN that both Division III institutions will be in the spotlight once again. The Warhawks are the defending champions. The Purple Raiders have never gone three years in a row without winning a national championship. Something will have to give. Either Wisconsin-Whitewater will win their third straight title, something that no one but Mount Union has accomplished, or the Purple Raiders will restore order and bring home an 11th title to Alliance, Ohio.
If you want to observe a true national championship affair between the top two teams in Division III, you will not have to look to the BCS to make this determination. 32 teams started the playoff journey to Salem, Virginia. The University of Mount Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater have found their way through rocky terrain to once again compete for the coveted Division III trophy. And this one figures to be just as competitive as the other six matches.
Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake LaMotta waged war six times for the middleweight boxing championship. The rivalry between Mount Union and Whitewater has taken on this role and the seventh straight confrontation should not be an exception.