I’ve had this topic on my mind for a while now, but I just haven’t gotten around to writing about it. It seems, when something good happens to Robert Morris, Duquesne fans react as if something bad happen to the Dukes. Likewise, when something hurts the Colonials, people tend to rub it in. Shortly after the schadenfreude glow of the Mount Saint Mary’s loss and my disappointment at their NIT win versus St John’s, I came to realize that maybe a successful Robert Morris might in some ways help the Dukes.
On the surface, it’s easy to see two programs without much common interest. It looks like a growing rivalry competing for limited resources and local attention. They’re dueling brands selling a similar product. Think scaled down, Coke and Pepsi or McDonald’s and Burger King. To put it in more Duquesne terms, Giovanni’s and Milano’s. However, as each brand grows, the consumer’s tastes and behaviors change. Now they have a taste for cola or a expect a quicker meal or get midnight craving for a greasy pizza. In the end, both brands benefit from a culture change.
At the moment, there is a very small market for mid major basketball in Pittsburgh, but it’s possible that the improvement of Robert Morris or Duquesne’s brand will ultimately help the entire tide rise. As more people see Robert Morris as playing meaningful basketball in a relevant conference , no one will be able to deny that Duquesne does the same. Likewise, the Dukes improved perception would help lend some credibility to Robert Morris and help break down the basketball elitism we’ve seen around Western PA’s Pitt dominated landscape. If one school or the other can break it down, it ultimately makes it easier for the other to do the same. They can grow their brands together.
I won’t go as far as cheering for Robert Morris, but I won’t bemoan their successes anymore either. While it doesn’t feel that way right now, there is room for both programs to be successful in Pittsburgh. After all, it’s not as if they’re competing in the same conference or for the same type of players. I can’t say that I’m happy with Duquesne’s level of perception relative to the Colonials, and don’t get me wrong, I want to see the Dukes dominate them head to head. However, I think their success could make it easier for the Dukes to establish a presence in the market not more difficult.