Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Wolfpack's O'Brien knows rivalry

Don’t talk to N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien about rivalries.

O’Brien, who graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and coached seven years there, knows about rivalry. From the time he enrolled on June 28, 1967, the Army-Navy rivalry was constantly in his thoughts.

“The first three words I learned were, ‘Beat Army, sir,’ ” O’Brien said.

N.C. State’s rivalry with North Carolina is big. On what O’Brien calls the “rubber chicken circuit” during the spring, N.C. State fans constantly asked him about defeating the two teams with “Carolina” in their name – North Carolina and East Carolina.

UNC-N.C. State is certainly bigger than anything O’Brien experienced in 10 years at Boston College, which he said didn’t have a rival.

“We tried to make Notre Dame the rival, but they didn’t want us to be, especially after we started beating them,” O’Brien said.

But Army-Navy was a constant theme for O’Brien for 11 years. As a plebe, the first thing he was required to recite at meal call each day was the date of the Army-Navy game.

“There’s nothing like it,” he said.

– Ken Tysiac