For at least the next two seasons, the site of the game will be off campus at the U.S. Bank Arena in downtown Cincinnati, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported Tuesday. Both sides will reevaluate the behavior of the players and fans after that two-year trial period and decide whether the series should continue.
This is exactly what should have happened to the Kentucky Wildcats and Indiana Hoosiers game, and for the same reason. No, the two teams didn't throw punches and behaved very much with class, but the Indiana fans were way too stirred up about that game, and I think the UK-IU series had just gotten a little too hot among the fans to continue home and home. I think this should be the default position of every rivalry where a lot of ugliness happens, either on the floor or in the bleachers.
Despite their mutual detestation, the Louisville and Kentucky game has never, or at least not in my memory, gotten as ugly as IU did this year when Kentucky came to town. There is no doubt that taking this year off is not a the worst thing, and if it turns into a couple of years, it will still be okay.
By moving the game to neutral sites, you encourage better sportsmanship, and what I consider a better environment. I'd cop to going back and forth between neutral and home-and-home on a rotating 2-year basis, because I think it helps give the bad blood a chance to mellow a bit, and prevents the catastrophic levels of unsportsmanlike conduct that can happen when the rivalry burns too hot at a home arena.
The bottom line to me, though, is that bitter rivalries that show the propensity for escalating into injury and violence are too hot for a home-home series. That's just how I see it. I am sympathetic to the argument that college basketball is at it's best on college campuses, but I think the safety of the patrons and the players must come first, and if neutral sites must be employed to cool the hot blood of rivalry, that's how it should go. I think everyone would agree that's better than calling the game off altogether -- I don't know many UK or IU fans who are happy the rivalry is on hiatus.
Which reminds me -- Mike Davis, please call your office, Joel Pett is on the line.
Kudos to Cincinnati and Xavier for doing the right thing, and giving the chance for a bad situation to get back to the kind of great college basketball environment that both their teams deserve. I truly hope the fans and players use this opportunity to return to the kind of sportsmanship and decorum that both these programs deserve.