Kentucky-Indiana Rivalry Rises From the Grave, Searches for Sportswriter Blood [UPDATED x2]

Maybe we'll get to see this sooner than expected.

Rob Dauster at MSNBC:

According to Dustin Dopirak of the Bloomington Herald Times, who obtained letters sent between Indiana athletic director Fred Glass and Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart, Indiana reopened negotiations with Kentucky on May 10th.

The offer?

Two games in Lucas Oil Stadium, followed by a game at Rupp and THEN a game at Assembly Hall. In 2015-2016.

So what's the catch? Well, the catch is that both games are in Indiana, and none in Kentucky.

If I were Calipari, I'd take it. But notably, I am not Calipari.

Look, Lucas Oil Stadium might as well be half in and half out of Kentucky. The flood of UK fans to that nearby site to see this game would be staggering. I'm not sure that Indiana fans could match it, but they might -- if anyone can, it would be them. Myself, I wouldn't miss it for the world if it was held on a Monday night the day before the Rapture. Indy is a great town when it's not overrun by the Indiana Hoosiers lunatic fringe wanting to storm every court in sight.

The game then returns first to Rupp, then to Bloomington. After that, presumably, there would have to be a negotiation.

Where this falls down is twofold. First, it is a four-year commitment when Calipari has made a big deal of wanting to sign on for a max of 2 years at a time. That is stumbling block number one.

Stumbling block #2 is that it does not meet his stated position of wanting this game moved to neutral sites. It does it for 2 years, but that's all.

Stumbling block #3 is that he's pretty put out about the way the fans behaved in Bloomington, but I doubt this would weigh heavily. Four years is a long time, and hopefully everybody learned something from the unfortunate events following the most recent contest in Bloomington.

For my money, though, this is a good compromise. Of course, my money doesn't mean crap and I don't coach the basketball team. Calipari has made clear that he is the guy in the hot seat, and his opinion, while maybe not the only one that matters, carries the most weight by far.

How will Coach Cal react to a compromise counter-proposal? I'm not sure, but a flat "no" isn't all that likely. This does look like a good faith effort. But he may come back with something else -- Calipari's creativity in these matters seemingly knows no bounds.

Finally, I have to take umbrage with this:

If I had my druthers, this game would get played on campus every single season because we all saw just how awesome the game was last season. With Kentucky and Indiana looking like the nation’s two best teams, it can only get more awesome. I’m a college basketball fan first and foremost, and as a fan, it sucks that we won’t be able to see this game.

Oh, please spare me! Dauster, as he has been wont to do, simply will not acknowledge that what he considered "awesome" was actually quite unpleasant for anyone other than IU fans:

Fans stormed the court after Watford’s shot in a jubilant display. UK’s Darius Miller was nearly trampled in the process, and freshman Marquis Teague, an Indianapolis native, endured a cascade of profanities as he was escorted off the floor by a bodyguard.

Of course, then there was this description:

I wish I could say [Megan Dills, a UK fan who was injured at the game] might be embellishing. But she’s not. I never heard the f-bomb dropped as much as I did at this game. To be fair, some Indiana officials warned students to quit using the word, but that was about as effective as me telling the rain to stop falling during a thunderstorm. Unless you were at the game, it’s hard to describe the animosity. I know I talked to the parent of one UK player who was stunned by the atmosphere inside the arena. [emphasis mine]

It was not awesome. It was a gruesome, unsportsmanlike display. I wish these guys would quit trying to rewrite history.

Be that as it may, four years would hopefully be enough time for the bad blood to cool.

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According to John Clay, IU's proposal has been considered and rejected. Clay cites this article from the Bloomington Herald-Times, thus:

Glass said that he and Barnhart had several phone conversations and that they were involved in a conference call that also included several other administrators in both athletic departments. However, on May 23, Kentucky coach John Calipari made a scheduling related post on his blog that discussed the revival of the Wildcats’ series with North Carolina and his attempts to begin a series at neutral sites with Duke. Glass said he called Barnhart to find out if that meant that negotiations were off. According to the letter, IU assistant athletic director Jayd Grossman received a call from Kentucky executive associate athletics director DeWayne Peevy saying that Kentucky would refuse a contract lasting more than two years. [emphasis mine]

What this means is that non-conference contracts for greater than two years are now unacceptable as a matter of policy. I think it's safe to say after all this that based on what we think we know, the end of this series is completely the fault of Calipari and Kentucky. There is no justifiable basis for arguing that point anymore.

Calipari's "take it or leave it" attitude is not going to win him many friends, and might cost him a few. He says that it's him in the chair and he gets to make those calls, and while that is indisputable, I find this ultimately troubling. Indiana is a long-standing rival, and their attempt to compromise here, based on the available information, looks genuine and well-intentioned. Kentucky's pro-forma dismissal of that proposal based on an astonishingly rigid new policy is not very sportsmanlike in my view, based on what I have before me.

I welcome disagreement, and am certainly hoping to be persuaded otherwise. I feel a screed coming on, the kind I truly hate to write, and I am hoping that someone can talk me off that ledge ...

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Mitch Barnhart has released a statement (via Nation of Blue) attempting to take the blame for the rejection, and offering some interesting and defensible reasoning that assuages some, but not all of my concerns. Consider this:

On May 24, DeWayne Peevy expressed to Jayd Grossman our concerns about buying out either Portland or Samford and signing a four-year agreement. Jayd responded that he would talk with Fred about our concerns and also get back to DeWayne about Indiana's availability on December 22. However, we did not receive a response until Fred Glass' letter dated May 25 arrived this afternoon.

I accept this explanation with enthusiasm. We should not be buying out teams, we committed to them and we should play them, and Indiana has no right to ask us to do that.

On the other hand, this, prima facia, looks like bullcrap:

We currently do not have any agreements with more than two years remaining and would like to maintain the current flexibility of our future scheduling. If we entered into a four-year deal with Indiana, including the last two years at campus sites, not only would that alter our flexibility but it would also mean that we would have to end our home-and-home series with Louisville in order to keep our non-conference road schedule balanced. We are not interested in doing that.

Oh, good grief. A one-game "imbalance" should not be that big a deal. Seriously, there will be years when it will be imbalanced in our favor under such and agreement, and that should offset this concern. Drop Louisville? Did he really say that? Does he want the legislature to take over UK scheduling, because in case he doesn't remember, that almost happened.

Look, let's drop the hyperbole here. IU screwed around and made their proposal impossible for now. fine. After two years, it will no longer be the case -- reconsider it then. But this rigidity in the name of "flexibility" is just a bunch of hooey, in my opinion, and the Indiana series, like Louisville, is a special case -- not for the reasons that Dick Vitale and Eamonn Brennan have wallowed in, but because they are nearby major rivals and deserve special consideration.

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