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January 5, 2001

Calvin Game Goes Satellite

The best small-college basketball rivalry in the nation is expanding its reach once again thanks to the science of satellite.

On Saturday, January 20, 2001 fans of Calvin and Hope colleges will gather at over 40 sites across North America to watch the two schools square off in a men's basketball contest, including a taped greeting prior to the game from Calvin president Gaylen Byker and Hope president James Bultman (above left).

From British Columbia to Florida and California to Massachusetts, including Michigan gatherings in Holland, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Traverse City, as well as the greater Detroit area, thousands of fans will come together to cheer on their alma mater.

They will view the continuation of a series that began 80 years ago and pits two schools that share both geography (they are located just 35 miles apart in West Michigan) and religious roots (Calvin's denomination, the Christian Reformed Church, split from Hope's denomination, the Reformed Church, a century ago).

Both schools also have superb basketball traditions. In the 144 games played since 1920-21, Calvin has outscored Hope by just five total points on its way to a 73-71 series lead. The two teams also have combined to win outright or share 44 of the last 47 Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles. And Calvin won the 1992 and 2000 NCAA Division III national Championships, while Hope twice was an NCAA Runner-Up in the 1990s.

Tickets to the annual two regular-season games between Calvin and Hope are among the toughest to secure in Division III sports. Both schools routinely sell out their home venues for the game. In fact, in 1997 Calvin moved its home game to VanAndel Arena in Grand Rapids where the rivalry produced a sell-out, 11,442 tickets, that still stands as an NCAA Division III record for men's basketball attendance. But the rivalry was always confined to West Michigan.

In 1999, however, the two schools teamed with local PBS affiliate WGVU TV (which broadcasts the games live in its viewing area) to put the Saturday telecast on satellite. The two schools then organized satellite viewing parties across the country and some 1,000 fans at various locales tuned in. The 2000 contest drew twice as many sites and viewers. And 2001 should bring even more people to the party.

In many sites Calvin and Hope alumni are cooperating to arrange the events. In Traverse City the cooperation is very close: Bob and Kristen Mannes are working together; he is a 1989 Calvin grad, while she is a 1989 Hope grad!

Calvin and Hope officials have been working with local organizers for months now to plan the January 20 details. They say the project is time-consuming, but proving to be worth the effort.

"It (the satellite broadcast) is one of the biggest alumni events of the year for us," says Calvin's Mike VanDenend, director of the school's 50,000-member Alumni Association. "It's been great to work with Hope as a partner on the event and fun to plan something that draws so many alumni from coast to coast."

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Contact Phil de Haan.