Oberlin Blogs

The Oberlin and Kenyon Rivalry (told from a VERY biased perspective)

February 28, 2018

Jason Hewitt ’20

Dear Fellow and Future Obies,

I feel the need to provide you all with this very important public service announcement. Are you ready for it? Are you sure? All right, let's get into it.

DRUM ROLL, PLEASE! (Okay, this may be a bit dramatic...)

We should not rock with purple. Yes, it may be your favorite color for various reasons. However, it is the color of our dreaded rival, Kenyon College. So, if purple is your favorite color, perhaps it is time to find a new favorite color. (I'm totally kidding. Just don't wear it to any competitive events against Kenyon, unless you want to be booed.) This rivalry we have with Kenyon may not be as intense as rivalries such as Alabama vs. Auburn, Duke vs. North Carolina, or Ohio State vs. Michigan, but it is still a pretty competitive matchup. 

It is time for a brief history lesson about Oberlin's historic rivalry with Kenyon. According to this article which covered the football team's most recent game against Kenyon (which we WON, by the way...), the Yeomen first played Kenyon in 1892. The all-time football series record between the two schools is 43-39-6. For those who have no idea what that means, don't worry. I got you. Basically, we handed Kenyon forty-three L's in its history. Kenyon beat us thirty-nine times. We tied with them six times. Therefore, we have a winning record against the Kenyon Lords.

The rivalry isn't just in football, either. I've watched many Oberlin sports teams compete in athletic events on many occasions during my time at Oberlin, and I can honestly say that when our teams play against Kenyon, the energy is... different. The energy between the players, coaches, and fans simply feels more electrifying than it had felt at any other athletic event I have experienced here. A rivalry game between Oberlin and Kenyon is by far one of the most energized athletic experiences you will ever see here at Oberlin.

The roots between this rivalry have a lot to do with the similarities between the two colleges. For instance, many people often describe Kenyon as a prestigious liberal arts college located in Ohio. How do people see Oberlin? It is the same idea. Oberlin is a prestigious liberal arts college located in Ohio. I mean, you can't make this stuff up. You can ask people who have knowledge on the topics of Oberlin and Kenyon about both schools, and many if not most of your responses will either be exactly or closely related to the phrase, "Prestigious liberal arts school in Ohio." 

When it comes to broad similarities, these two schools are as close as you can get. They are twin schools in a way. (Kenyon's the "evil" twin in this case...) One of the most significant similarities I see between the two rival schools is their locations. The environments of the two schools are oddly similar. Kenyon is located in a small village called Gambier, Ohio.  The city of Oberlin's population is much larger than Gambier's, but both towns have that "small town feel." I have personally been to Gambier only once, so my experiences there are very limited, but I can tell you about my first impression. It was SMALL. I thought the town of Oberlin was small and "cute," but this was next level.  If you're into nature and the wilderness, both towns have plenty of that, too. In my very biased but truthful opinion, ours is so much better. A LOT better.

The two schools also land in similar college choice conversations. This may apply to many of you future Obies out there! Perhaps Kenyon was in your "Top Ten" list. If it wasn't, then I applaud you. (Again, I'm totally kidding... Kind of...) Incoming college freshmen are trying to find their "perfect" school. Because the schools are so similar, this is just bound to happen. Therefore, recruiting can be very competitive between the two schools. This makes everything a little more personal for these college kids in both student bodies. I am definitely sure that there are narratives of Kenyon students who got rejected by Oberlin. I am also sure that there are narratives of Oberlin students who got rejected by Kenyon. It is a harsh reality that students at both schools have to deal with, which could explain their intense hatred for the other rival school. Because of that touchy subject in itself, the rivalry is intensified.

I would not understand why someone would rather go to Kenyon instead of Oberlin, but hey, that's their personal decision. There are no true hard feelings. This rivalry talk is nothing but friendly trash talk. I'm not here to ridicule you if you are fond of Kenyon for whatever reason. Will I judge you? Yeah, I might. The rivalry is too deep in my Obie heart. It is simply part of Oberlin's culture to naturally dislike Kenyon. 

FUN FACT: According to the latest edition of Forbes' "America's Top Colleges" list, Kenyon was ranked #63. Oberlin was ranked #53. I'm just saying.

Responses to this Entry

Hi Jason, my name is Ethan and I just got admitted to Oberlin. I’ve read some of your posts and I enjoy them. I am also an athlete who enjoys some rap music (I probably don’t know as much as you though). Can we chat over email or text about Oberlin? It may be my top school right now and I am hoping to get more information.

Posted by: Ethan Michel on April 6, 2018 12:04 AM

I was a two sport athlete at Oberlin in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Kenyon was always the best match up. Ohio Wesleyan and Denison spend much more resources recruiting athletes and have always been effectively in a different league athletically but inferior academically. Unfortunately, like it or not, college rankings do carry a lot of sway in "branding". When I applied to Oberlin in was ranked #5 among liberal arts colleges compared to #26 for Kenyon in the imperfect and controversial US News & World Reports ranking scheme.

For whatever reason, times have changed. I still think it is a shame that Oberlin does not put resources into developing one or two sports where it could dominate with stellar coaches and a welcoming vibe for outstanding scholar athletes. Athletes tend to go on to be lawyers, bankers, professors, entrepreneurs or doctors given their drive. More love and connection with the school in the form of supporting winning teams and better engagement would create, I think, what every college needs these days: larger giving, whether financial or in the form of service. I would bet good money that if the endowment office ran a study of median salaries of OC athletes vs non-athletes over the past 50 years, there would be motivation to invest in one or two sports where Oberlin could truly stand out and attract the best and brightest, thus also helping the endowment. Take a look at what Tufts has done with its DIII soccer program over the past 5 years as a perfect analog.

Posted by: nils mellquist on December 17, 2018 9:33 AM

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