Rivalries are what make sports. If it weren’t for fierce competition, they would not be fun to watch. That feeling of getting to play your rival, and the desire to beat them is even deeper than a regular opponent.
So why are Harding and Arkansas Tech University rivals? Every rivalry has a story.
Before the Great American Conference (GAC), Harding and Tech were both members in the Gulf South Conference starting in 2000. Even before all of this, Harding and Tech have had a rivalry of which is the “better” school in general. Tech was a member of this conference from 1995-2011. Even though they were both in the same conference as Ouachita Baptist University and Henderson State University, Tech was the school that became Harding’s rival.
In 2011, both Tech and Harding switched to the Great American Conference.
Here is a little history of the rivalry through a few different sports:
The volleyball rivalry between Tech and Harding is older than the GAC, but it has strengthened due to the closeness of games since the formation of the conference in 2011.
Tech swept the GAC regular season and postseason tournaments in 2011. The Lady Bisons duplicated that feat in 2012 and won the GAC regular season title in 2013. Tech then upset top-seeded Harding in the championship match of the 2013 GAC Volleyball Tournament to earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Volleyball Tournament. Fast forward to 2017, and Tech’s team is ranked No. 8 in the nation. They ended up defeating Harding in the GAC finals.
In 2005, the Bisons beat Tech 70-68 and this marked their sixth straight win in Russellville.
In 2011, Harding came short in a thriller against Tech. Harding, No. 14, overcame a 19-point deficit in the first half, but could not hold on in overtime and fell 72-71 to No. 9 Tech at the Rhodes Field House. It was a meeting of the top two teams in the Gulf South Conference West Division, and Tech clinched the division championship with the victory.
This ended up being one of Harding’s best seasons, going 25-5. The Bisons also later defeated Tech 80-61 in the Gulf South Conference tournament.
The past four years, Harding has split victories against Tech. This year they defeated us 98-94 in one of the closest losses of the season for the Bisons. The second meeting this season we lost 63-70.
In 2005 and 2009, the Lady Bisons came within beating Tech by one point toward the end of both seasons. There have rarely been any blowout games between these teams throughout the years, but an exception was when Harding won in the GAC tournament 81-48 in 2014.
Last year in the Lady Bison’s historic run to the final four, they met and defeated the Golden Suns four different times.
In their first meeting this year, Harding came up short, losing 64-77. They again came up short losing 54-56.
Even though the softball team has not been around long, they have still managed to uphold their side of the rivalry. In 2014, the Lady Bisons came out on top 4-3 three different times over Tech. The next year, 2015, Tech wanted revenge and came out on top 2-10 in the conference tournament.
In 2016 Harding beat No. 8 ranked Tech once and then again in the conference tournament. Going 58-9 last season, one of their losses happened to be against Tech 0-1. Their next meeting will be on April 3, in Searcy.
In 2007, Harding took a hit in their final game of the season, losing 4-14. Despite this loss, it was their most successful season since 2003. In 2011, Harding had 42 wins, two of which were against Tech. Despite defeating Tech twice in 2017, the Wonder Boys won out in the end and knocked Harding out of the GAC championship, beating them in a two out of three series.
I would say the biggest reasons we are rivals with Tech is because we’ve both had consistently strong athletics throughout the years. We are two of the closest teams in the conference and have been even since the Gulf South Conference.
So, here’s to many more years of beating Tech.