Kentucky Basketball: Will the Wildcats-Hoosiers Series Die?

I suspect we are seeing a bit of a kabuki dance between John Calipari and Tom Crean.

There is a lot of pessimism in the media about the series between non-conference border rivals Indiana and Kentucky. We all know the history of this series, and how it is UK's longest-running non-conference rivalry. We also know that Tom Crean and John Calipari are buddies. But the two seem to have taken positions diametrically opposed to each other, and at this moment, nobody's talking about budging.

From Andy Katz' blog post earlier today:

"We can do it in Louisville, Lucas Oil, both teams benefit," Calipari said. Crean rebutted saying, "It's got to be a two-way street and taking it off campus isn’t anything that people here are excited about or behind."

After what I consider to be a debacle in Assembly Hall earlier this year where Hoosier fans, apparently mostly students, were extremely verbally abusive and even caused injury to some patrons from Kentucky by their reckless and irresponsible behavior. I called for the series to be moved back to neutral sites at at that point, and the Director of Athletics at Indiana eventually felt compelled to issue an apology, a very classy move on his part.

Based on those events, it would seem that moving the event to neutral sites makes a lot of sense. If there is that much loathing by either or both sides, neutral sites would seem to be an excellent solution. After all, from 1991 to 2005, the game was played at neutral sites in Indianapolis and Louisville.

A bit of history seems in order. The reason the game was moved from neutral sites to a home and home was because of a scheduling conflict Kentucky had with the University of Louisville in 2006 that occurred to late for the teams to pick another date that year. Then, the series was renewed home-home in 2007, and I am unsure of the reasoning behind it, but I suspect it was to avoid another Louisville muscle-flex.

Frankly, I think there is a very good reason to move this game to a neutral site. In the first place, neutral site games, especially for rivalries, have a better college atmosphere. You have roughly equal numbers of two great programs cheering on their team, and I think that is far better than a highly partisan crowd. It encourages people to behave better on both sides and even communicate with each other in a more open way. It also tends to be a more mature crowd with fewer students, who are the most likely source of trouble from both sides.

I definitely want the series to continue, but I get the impression that it is likely to die, because the positions of the two sides seem entrenched. I don't know why IU is so determined to see it on campus, but I get the feeling that the Hoosiers would really be happier if the series was discontinued anyway. They have had preliminary discussions with Kansas about a series, and perhaps after the events of last year, it wouldn't be the end of the world if both teams took a break from each other. It isn't as though it has to die forever, and after a couple of years, perhaps the absence would make the hearts of both teams grow fonder. Who knows?

Anyway, it is my considered opinion that neither Crean nor Calipari would mind seeing this series end, no matter what they say in public. I know Calipari hates to play against his friends, of which Crean is one, and I imagine Crean has similar feelings. So I am beginning to suspect that this is just one big kabuki dance by both sides, with the desired outcome being an irreconcilable impasse, at least for a few years.

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