Who really is Urban’s rival?


Kathryn Doorey

Urban students cheer on their fellow Blues at a basketball game against Lick-Wilmerding. Photo credit: Kathryn Doorey

Ian Ryan, Staff Writer

Rivalries are a core part of sports, from El Clasico between Barcelona and Real Madrid to the Bruce Mahoney match between San Francisco high schools Sacred Heart Cathedral Preparatory and Saint Ignatius College Preparatory. These rivalry games amplify the emotional value of the sport by both pushing the competing teams to work harder to win and making victory more valuable for the fans supporting them. As a private school in the heart of San Francisco, Urban has plenty of relationships with similar schools. However, it’s fairly hard to narrow down who Urban’s ‘rival’ school is.

MaxPreps, one of the main sources for statistics on high school sports, lists University High School as Urban’s rival school for all sports teams. For much of Urban’s history, this has been true. Joe Skiffer, the athletic director and basketball coach at Urban, said, “for a long time, even before I got here, we had something called a Red-Blue Bell, which we would ring each time we beat University.” Although this bell was brought back once again during Joe’s tenure as Athletic Director, he has since retired it. “I want to bring a level of normalcy to beating University, and not celebrate it,” he said. “You know they’re not celebrating or ringing a bell when they beat us.”

Another school that Urban has a complex relationship with is Lick-Wilmerding High School, who, as another private school similar to Urban in academic rigor, stands out as a likely rival. “We actually tried creating a competition called the Apple Cup between our school and theirs,” Skiffer said. “It was going to be a competition of nine different sports with an overall winner.” While this competition never came into existence due to a variety of complicating factors, Lick-Wilmerding and Urban have continued to compete in many sports since then. Recently, Lick-Wilmerding and Urban’s basketball teams have created a tradition of annual triple-header basketball matches, adding a level of excitement for the fans.

When asked about these rivalries, students from other schools had differing answers. University student Henry Gorelik ‘19 said, “I think that Urban is a really good school, and their sports teams have definitely gotten a lot better over the last few years. However, I’d say that our biggest rival is either Lick or Marin Academy.”

Ruben Rathje ‘20, a Lick-Wilmerding student, had a similar perspective. “Honestly, it should make sense that our closest rival would be Urban, just based on the size of our schools. But with Oracle [the annual basketball game held at Oracle Stadium between Lick-Wilmerding and University] and everything, it’s definitely much more meaningful for us to beat University, and because of that I’ve got to say that our rival is University,” Rathje said.

If neither Lick-Wilmerding nor University considers Urban to be their rival, then there is no reason for Urban to think differently. In reality, Urban can compete with a variety of different schools no matter the sport. Skiffer said, “more than anything, I think it just depends on the team. For basketball at this point, it’s probably Lick-Wilmerding. For soccer now, you’d probably want to beat Marin Academy more than anyone else.” He believes that other schools do not consider themselves to be rivals with Urban, and therefore there shouldn’t be any need to force a school to fit that role. As Joe intended when he got rid of the Red-Blue Bell, accepting the lack of a ‘rival school’ gives Urban athletes the opportunity to push themselves to compete in every matchup, embracing all challenges and creating a culture where every game matters.