It’s far from the biggest rivalry in college basketball, but for those who have followed it, the Saint Francis vs. Robert Morris rivalry has been really good for college hoops in western PA.
The rivalry faced the possibility of coming to an end with Robert Morris leaving the Northeast Conference for the greener pastures of the Horizon League.
Fortunately, though, the Red Flash and Colonials will still be able play each other this season, as RMU will visit Saint Francis on Dec. 5 in a non-conference game.
It also sounds as if the series could continue for a long time.
Saint Francis coach Rob Krimmel discussed that on media day Thursday, mentioning that Robert Morris coach Andy Toole also is in favor of continuing the series.
“As long as I’m the coach here and as long as Andy’s the coach there, I think we’ll able to play that game,” Krimmel said. “It’s something that I think our guys will get excited for and his guys will get excited for. At least we know we have one game scheduled each year. That’s one less thing we have to do.”
Saint Francis had beaten Robert Morris nine consecutive times until late last season. The Colonials then beat the Red Flash in the final game of the regular season to earn home-court advantage in the NEC Tournament, and that made a big difference as they also beat the Flash in the tournament championship game at home to earn an NCAA Tournament berth.
There was no NCAA Tournament because of the coronavirus, but Robert Morris would have played in its ninth tournament, and it denied the Red Flash a chance to get to March Madness for a second time.
Krimmel said that playing the Colonials will always be a priority for Saint Francis.
“I have so much respect for Andy and the Robert Morris program,” Krimmel said. “Certainly there’s a connection with Mike Iuzzolino, one of the all-time greats here at Saint Francis. To me it makes sense to keep playing it. By no means am I equating Robert Morris and Saint Francis to Pitt and Penn State or any of those rivalries, but Pitt’s in the ACC and Penn State’s in the Big Ten, and that is still a rivalry I think a lot of people would like to see.
“We’re so close to each other, it makes sense. It’s so hard to schedule games, to be able to have an opponent an hour and a half down the road that was in our league for so long, it was a natural geographical rival and some of the games that we’ve had the last five or six years. It makes sense.”
Robert Morris leads the all-time series, 51-38.
“We are excited to continue one of the best and longest rivalries in our program’s history,” Robert Morris coach Andy Toole said. “Obviously with the proximity between our campuses and the respect we have for the Saint Francis program, we felt it was a series we wanted to continue even after leaving the Northeast Conference.
“We’re looking forward to continuing our series with Saint Francis this season. When we were putting together a schedule for this season, it made sense to keep the rivalry going. We’ve played some exciting games in recent years, and I think those competitive games are going to continue.”