Lehigh and Villanova: A Look at the Rivalry

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

University students walking in the hallway.

Lehigh and Villanova: A Look at the Rivalry

Lehigh and Villanova are two highly respected and competitive universities located in Pennsylvania. They both have a long-standing rivalry. It has attracted the attention of students, alumni, and fans for generations.

In this article, we will take a comprehensive look at both universities, comparing their academics, athletic programs, campus culture, and student life. We’ll also explore the origins of their rivalry, how they stack up against each other historically, and their current state.

The Origins of the Lehigh-Villanova Rivalry: How It All Began

The Lehigh-Villanova rivalry began in the late 1800s when both universities had very different athletic programs than today. Lehigh was known for its football and wrestling teams, while Villanova focused on basketball and track and field. The rivalry between the two schools first gained steam in the 1920s and 1930s when they competed in a series of heated basketball contests.

Holding a basketball with one hand.

Since then, the rivalry has grown to include a range of sports and areas of competitive excellence beyond athletics. For example, in recent decades, the two universities have become highly desirable destinations for top-tier students seeking a challenging and rewarding undergraduate or graduate education. This development has only served to intensify the rivalry, as both institutions seek to prove that they are the best in class.

Another factor that has contributed to the intensity of the Lehigh-Villanova rivalry is their geographic proximity. The two universities are located just over 100 miles apart, making it easy for students, alumni, and fans to travel to games and events. This close proximity has also led to a healthy competition for resources and talent in the region, as both institutions strive to attract the best and brightest students, faculty, and staff.

The Historical Record: A Look at the Teams’ Head-to-Head Matchups

To date, Lehigh and Villanova have faced each other in dozens of athletic competitions. While the two schools have exchanged blows over the years, Villanova has maintained a winning record in most matchups, particularly in basketball, where they have won a majority of the games played between the two universities over the last century.

However, Lehigh has shown itself to be a worthy adversary in many other areas of competitive excellence, such as football, engineering, and business. Consequently, the rivalry remains sharply contested, with both universities pushing each other to perform at their very best.

One of the most memorable matchups between Lehigh and Villanova occurred in 2010 when the two schools faced off in the NCAA Division I Football Championship. Despite being the underdogs, Lehigh managed to pull off a stunning upset, defeating Villanova 20-19 in a nail-biting finish. This victory remains one of the most celebrated moments in Lehigh’s athletic history.

Outside of sports, the two universities have also collaborated on various research projects and initiatives. In 2018, Lehigh and Villanova partnered on a joint engineering program, which allowed students from both schools to work together on cutting-edge research in the field of materials science. This collaboration not only fostered academic excellence but also strengthened the ties between the two institutions.

The Current State of the Rivalry: Who Has the Upper Hand?

Today, both Lehigh and Villanova are highly respected institutions of higher learning, drawing top talent and resources to their campuses. However, we can say that Villanova has achieved greater national recognition in recent years, winning two NCAA basketball championships in the past five years.

Lehigh, on the other hand, has distinguished itself in key areas such as entrepreneurship, sustainable engineering, and data analytics. Indeed, Lehigh has pioneered the development of many internationally recognized social impact programs, such as the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation.

Despite Villanova’s recent success in basketball, Lehigh has a strong athletic program as well. The Mountain Hawks have won multiple Patriot League championships in various sports, including football, wrestling, and lacrosse. Additionally, Lehigh has a rich history in football, with notable alumni such as Hall of Famer Marty Morningweg and Super Bowl champion quarterback Nick Foles.

A Tale of Two Cities: Comparing the Campus Cultures of Lehigh and Villanova

The campus cultures of Lehigh and Villanova are quite different in some respects. Lehigh is located in Bethlehem, a small but thriving town in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, while Villanova is situated in the bustling city of Philadelphia, one of the largest metropolitan areas on the East Coast.

While both universities provide ample opportunities for active student life, including clubs, organizations, and volunteer programs, the differences in location and campus environment can play a significant role in the overall experience. Lehigh students, for example, often take advantage of the many outdoor recreation opportunities in the nearby Poconos Mountains, while Villanova students regularly mingle with alumni who are working in the city.

Another notable difference between the two universities is the size of their student bodies. Lehigh has a smaller student population, which allows for a more intimate and personalized learning experience. On the other hand, Villanova’s larger student population provides a more diverse student body and a wider range of academic programs and extracurricular activities.

Additionally, the campus architecture and design also differ between the two universities. Lehigh’s campus features a mix of historic and modern buildings, with a distinct red-brick aesthetic. Villanova’s campus, on the other hand, has a more traditional collegiate Gothic style, with buildings featuring pointed arches and intricate stonework.

Athletic Programs Compared: How Do Lehigh and Villanova Stack Up?

The athletic programs at Lehigh and Villanova are both highly respected, with strong teams in a range of sports. However, Villanova has achieved greater national recognition in recent years, with a slew of NCAA basketball championships to its name.

teacher in blue holding a clipboard

Lehigh, on the other hand, has set itself apart as a premier destination for student-athletes seeking opportunities in less traditional sports, such as wrestling, women’s soccer, and track and field.

Additionally, Lehigh has a strong commitment to academic excellence for its student-athletes. The university boasts a high graduation rate for its athletes and provides extensive academic support services to ensure their success both on and off the field.

This emphasis on academics has helped Lehigh attract top-tier student-athletes who are looking for a well-rounded college experience.

Academics Compared: Which School Offers the Best Education?

In terms of academics, Lehigh and Villanova are both renowned for their excellent programs. Villanova is famous for its strong business and engineering curriculums, while Lehigh is known for its rigorous programs in the natural sciences, humanities, and social sciences.

Both universities offer a wide array of majors, minors, and certificate programs. Lehigh, for example, has a highly regarded study abroad program that allows students to immerse themselves in different cultures, languages, and societies. Meanwhile, Villanova has a thriving undergraduate research program that many students take advantage of.

Additionally, Lehigh has a unique program called the Integrated Degree Program (IDP), which allows students to earn both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in five years. This program is available in select majors and provides students with a competitive edge in the job market.

On the other hand, Villanova offers a variety of service-learning opportunities, where students can apply their classroom knowledge to real-world situations and make a positive impact in their communities. These experiences not only enhance students’ resumes but also foster a sense of social responsibility and civic engagement.

Student Life Compared: What’s It Like to Attend Lehigh or Villanova?

As we mentioned earlier, Lehigh and Villanova both provide their students with an array of opportunities to become fully immersed in campus life, from clubs and organizations to service projects and internships.

Group of students sitting on the stairs.

However, Lehigh students often stress the strong sense of camaraderie and community that pervades the campus, with tight-knit groups of students regularly coming together for social and academic pursuits. Villanova students, on the other hand, often accentuate the wide range of resources and opportunities available to them in the nearby city of Philadelphia.

Another aspect that sets Lehigh apart is its emphasis on experiential learning. The university offers numerous opportunities for students to engage in hands-on learning, such as through research projects, internships, and study abroad programs. This focus on practical experience helps Lehigh students to develop valuable skills and gain real-world experience that can give them an edge in their future careers.

Meanwhile, Villanova is known for its strong commitment to service and social justice. The university encourages students to get involved in community service projects and provides numerous resources to support these efforts.

Villanova students often speak of the sense of purpose and fulfillment they gain from these experiences, and many go on to pursue careers in fields such as non-profit work, social work, and public service.

Alumni Networks Compared: Which School Has the Stronger Network?

One of the most significant benefits of attending Lehigh or Villanova is the alumni network that students are exposed to. Both universities boast vast networks of successful and influential alumni who are active in a range of industries, from finance and consulting to academia, healthcare, and public service.

Students talking in a debate.

In terms of sheer size and scope, Villanova’s alumni network is somewhat larger and more far-reaching than Lehigh’s. However, both universities offer a high degree of engagement and support for their alumni, with robust networks and resources for networking, career development, and personal growth.

It’s worth noting that the strength of an alumni network can vary depending on the industry or field a graduate is interested in pursuing. For example, Lehigh has a particularly strong network in the engineering and technology sectors, while Villanova’s network is known for its connections in the business and legal fields. Ultimately, the strength of an alumni network is not just about its size, but also about the quality of the connections and the level of support and engagement offered to graduates.

Location Matters: A Look at Bethlehem and Philadelphia

The location of both universities has a significant impact on the overall experience of attending either Lehigh or Villanova.

Lehigh’s campus is located in Bethlehem, a small, charming town with ample opportunities for outdoor recreation, cultural events, and entertainment. Villanova, on the other hand, is located in Philadelphia, a bustling, cosmopolitan city with exciting restaurants, museums, and concert venues.

While Bethlehem may offer a more peaceful and serene environment, Philadelphia provides students with a wider range of internship and job opportunities due to its status as a major metropolitan area.

Additionally, Philadelphia’s location allows for easy access to other major cities on the East Coast, such as New York and Washington D.C., making it a convenient location for students who want to explore beyond their campus.

Campus Facilities Compared: What Do Lehigh and Villanova Offer Students?

Both universities offer their students a range of top-tier facilities and resources to support academic, extracurricular, and social pursuits. Lehigh is home to state-of-the-art engineering, science, and computer labs, as well as a state-of-the-art health and wellness center.

Villanova, meanwhile, boasts an expansive library system, research centers, and a range of athletic facilities, including state-of-the-art basketball and football stadiums.

Additionally, Lehigh offers students access to a cutting-edge entrepreneurship center, which provides resources and support for students interested in starting their own businesses. The center offers mentorship, workshops, and networking opportunities to help students turn their ideas into successful ventures.

On the other hand, Villanova has a strong focus on community service and social justice. The university has a dedicated center for community engagement, which connects students with local organizations and provides opportunities for service learning and volunteer work.

The Future of the Rivalry: Will It Continue to Grow and Evolve?

As Lehigh and Villanova continue to flourish and evolve, their rivalry will undoubtedly continue to be a topic of great interest and discussion. Who will come out on top in the coming years is anyone’s guess, but one thing is certain: the rivalry shows no signs of slowing down or losing steam anytime soon.

View of a coach using a whistle during practice.

One factor that may contribute to the growth and evolution of the rivalry is the increasing competitiveness of both schools’ athletic programs.

As Lehigh and Villanova continue to recruit top talent and invest in their sports teams, the level of competition between them is likely to intensify, fueling the fire of the rivalry even further.

Another potential factor is the changing landscape of college sports, with conference realignments and the possibility of new divisions or leagues.

If Lehigh and Villanova were to end up in the same conference or division, it could create even more opportunities for them to face off against each other, and potentially raise the stakes of their rivalry to new heights.


Lehigh and Villanova are both outstanding universities with storied histories, vibrant campus cultures, and excellent academic and athletic programs. Their rivalry is a source of pride and passion for students, alumni, and fans alike, and is sure to remain a topic of great interest for generations to come.

We hope this article has given you a comprehensive look at the many facets of the Lehigh-Villanova rivalry, and provided you with valuable insights into the strengths and weaknesses of both universities.

Whether you are a current student, an alumnus, or simply an interested observer, we hope you have enjoyed this insightful and informative article. Until next time, we wish you the very best in all your personal and professional pursuits.

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