They call it the 'Holy War', based on the division in the Christian Reformed Church, and this Saturday Calvin and Hope will play their 200th game. 

It is one of the most storied rivalries in NCAA Division III basketball, two small schools, divided by a rift in the Reformed Church, still duking it out 99 years later. This Saturday at DeVos Fieldhouse on the campus of Hope College in Holland, the rivalry will play its 200th game.

Hope holds a slight edge 103-96, but Calvin won the first 2019 meeting of the schools earlier in January. In those games, the two teams are separated by only 102 points. Which is indicative of how close the series has been.

In Jeff Seidel's piece about the schools in the Detroit Free Press, he gives the famed quote by Dr. Calvin VanderWerf, who was the president at Hope from 1963-70, "An atheist is someone who goes to the Hope-Calvin game and doesn't care who wins."

But the intensity of the rivalry is best linked to a split in the Christian Reformed Church in the 1850s when 138 families left the mainly Dutch denomination and formed the Reformed Church of America, which founded Hope College in Holland shortly thereafter.

The Detroit News put it this way:

“A spiritual battle,” is how 76-year-old (former Hope coach Glenn) Van Wieren describes the early days of a rivalry he was practically reared in...Friends often make the best enemies, and the mutual respect that undergirds the Hope-Calvin rivalry is born out of shared beliefs and a common ground they can’t help but fight over.

“It’s so intertwined, these two schools,” said Kevin Vande Streek, in his 23rd season as Calvin’s head coach. “We have high school teammates playing against each other, guys who’ve stood up in each other’s weddings, guys who are friends, neighbors, cousins. It’s all there.”

In a 1992 piece about the rivalry, Sports Illustrated put it right up there with the biggest basketball rivalries ever.

"the... war between Hope and Calvin, two Division III schools in western Michigan, is the equal of Duke-North Carolina, Georgetown-Syracuse or any of the big Division I rivalries.”

In 1997, the teams were both so good, the match up was moved to Van Andel Arena downtown and drew close to 11,000 fans, which is amazing, because the enrollment of the two schools combined is less than 7000.

Game time is 3:00pm Saturday. The Fieldhouse is sold out, but you can watch the game on WGVU Channels 35 and 52. 



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