Written by Kelli Shiroma and Alethia Selby
They’re Cougars. We’re Eagles. The intense Biola/APU rivalry is inherited the moment a new student steps onto either campus. But when you line up the facts, Biola and APU really aren’t that different. We’re both Christian universities in Southern California. We swap professors. We even share a fondness for the color red. The Eagle recently took a trip to APU to offer Biola’s love. Let’s keep it going.
To those who don’t know them well, seniors Joelle and Marie Tanaka look just like any twins. Standing side by side with their straight, black hair and matching tennis rackets, the girls are almost impossible to distinguish one from the other.
Impossible, that is, until you take a look at their shirts: Marie proudly sports her APU apparel, while Joelle wears her fire-engine red Biola shirt.
“They thought it was ironic,” Joelle says, remembering their mutual friends’ reactions upon hearing they were going to rival schools. “But they thought it was kind of cute.”
“We’ve always been really close,” Marie chimes in. “If anything, going to rival schools has made our relationship even better because we can really relate — tennis, school, everything.”
Though the “Red Sea” and “Blackout” during basketball games highlight the Biola/APU rivalry, cases like the Tanaka twins reveal a hidden affection between the schools.
Take engaged couple Michael Popp and Kellee Thompson, for example. The two met through Thompson’s brother during a trip to Disneyland in October 2006. A fast friendship sprung up between them, and they were officially dating by the following April, according to Thompson.
Though Thompson went to Biola and Popp went to APU, they playfully embrace the rivalry and often poke fun at each other.
“Just the other day, I was wearing a shirt that said ‘I went to Biola,’” Thompson says, grinning broadly. “Mike saw it and said, ‘Really? I’m sorry you went there.’”
While they still have school spirit — evident through each’s lighthearted jests at the other’s college — Popp and Thompson earnestly recognize how their relationship has affected those close to them. Once they were dating, their friendship circles became more mutual.
“All of my Biola friends started hanging out at Azusa with them [Mike and his friends],” Thompson remembers. “We all just became really good friends.”
In addition to students and alumni, both schools also share faculty and staff. Robin Faris, an assistant professor of nursing at Biola, attended APU for her master’s degree in nursing. While Faris was attending classes there, her son was completing his undergrad career at Biola. For a funny Christmas gift, Faris decided to give her son an APU T-shirt.
“He wouldn’t even touch it,” Faris says, laughing as she recalled the memory of her son opening the gift and seeing his expression. “He looked at me and said, ‘Take that back.’”
Stephen Childs, an art professor at both universities, is an example of a faculty member who visibly maintains his ties to Biola and APU. As a Biola grad, Childs smiles and admits that he has a bias toward his alma mater. He has taught at both schools since 2006 and describes the mixed responses when his students discover his “compromise.”
“Biola came up once in one of my classes at Azusa, and the one thing I kept hearing [brought up] was the contract,” Childs says. “The students [at APU] thought it was crazy how Biola students would sign something like that.”
All joking aside, however, Childs acknowledges more significant similarities among Biola and APU students.
“Compared to a junior college, there’s a quality and maturity and willingness to learn in the students both at Biola and APU,” he says earnestly. “They want to be there to learn. Both are campuses of faith, and that’s noticeable.”
We may have an Eagle while they’re fond of their Cougar, and our automatic Bible minors might make them shudder. But in the end, Biola and APU students are united by their love for God. As Christians, we’re called to use our passions to advance God’s kingdom and impact the world for Jesus Christ, regardless of the places we received our college degrees.
But does that mean this playful rivalry will be short-lived? Not for couples like Popp and Thompson, who have some daunting decisions looming in their future.
“I said our kids are going to Biola, but he [Michael] says they’re going to APU!” Thompson laughs.