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The End, At Least For Now -- Kentucky-Indiana Series Will Not Be Immediately Renewed

This is the end, my friend.
This is the end, my friend.

This is the outcome I expected, and quite frankly, it was made inevitable by circumstances that neither Kentucky nor Indiana were willing to take seriously. So instead of finding agreement, they declined to agree and moved on. The Sporting News writes:

Kentucky coach John Calipari and Indiana coach Tom Crean can't agree on where to play, so they instead are discontinuing one of college basketball's best rivalries.

Let's be honest, here -- this hasn't been a real rivalry since Rick Pitino and Bob Knight stalked the sidelines. During the Tubby Smith era, Indiana managed only 3 victories in 10 tries. That's just knock-down, drag-you-to-the-woodshead-and-beat-you-senseless domination. IU only managed one win against Billy Gillispie in 2 tries, and one win against Calipari in 3 tries, although there is no doubt that they are returning to prominence now. That's a good thing, too, but there are other considerations.

I didn't want to see the series end, but IU, in my opinion, was in no position to demand the venue be home and home after what happened in Bloomington this year. They simply didn't have the moral authority to be intransigent, and Kentucky did. What this is about is Fred Glass trying to undo the damage that got done to his rep when he felt the need to apologize for some IU fans and their behavior. Caving in to Kentucky on this issue would have damaged his credibility with the Hoosier fan base. The IU brain trust couldn't even agree to play all the games in Indianapolis, as UK offered -- a very telling offer, and a telling refusal.

For his part, Mitch Barnhart makes the point without bothering with gory details - they are unnecessary. From the Kentucky Kernel:

"John (Calipari) — I don’t think he was really thrilled about going back to Bloomington, and wanted to go back to neutral-neutral," UK Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart said.

And more, from Kyle Tucker at the Courier Journal:

ON WHETHER SOME OF LAST SEASON’S FAN BEHAVIOR AT INDIANA WAS PART OF THAT: "No, I’m not going to go into that. I think just going back to the neutral. The other piece for us—when I came here in 2002, we split that game right down the middle in Freedom Hall. I’m telling you, it was a special scene in college basketball. I don’t know who all was there at that point in time, but I’m telling you it was a special scene. And to be honest with you from a revenue piece, it was as equal if not better doing it that way than if it were on campus. But it’s not a revenue issue for us.

That's why we love you, Mitch. Reading between your lines is easy. No need to be blunt, you can leave that to bloggers like me who don't have to be politically correct.

Fred Glass had this to say:

"While we understand that such neutral site games could be quite lucrative, we think the series should be continued as it is, home and home," Glass said. "Playing on campus enables our students to attend these marquee games which we believe is a great component of the overall college experience. Playing in the historic venues that are Assembly Hall and Rupp Arena is also a tremendous experience for our student athletes."

Fred, it's some of your students that you had to apologize for. I would think pleasing them would be somewhat less important under the circumstances.

Of course, we have the predictable hand-wringing for those in the media who have absolutely no skin in the game. From Rob Pickeral at ESPN's college basketball blog:

Coaches Crean and Calipari, sirs, this is as weak as it gets. Maybe you don't care, but we do. It's weak. Fix it, and soon. You're taking a great game away from the rest of us, and we want it back.

Dear Rob: Get the hell over it. Want in one hand, defecate in the other, and see which one fills up first. Your opinion doesn't count for anything in this affair. This game is not for you, it is for UK fans and Hoosier fans. Anybody who wants to piggyback on it and ride for free can darn well live with our disagreement, and if you don't like it, pound sand. The same goes for you, Jeff Eisenberg.

Then, of course, there's Gary Parrish, who isn't content with blaming both sides. He wants him a piece of Cal, a piece of Kentucky fans, all of it. He doesn't blame both sides, he just blames Calipari, and says UK fans wouldn't care if Calipari "sacrificed a baby at halftime of a Tuesday night affair in February."

It is the lowest form of trolling for links, truly worthy of the sockpuppet Kent Sterling, and I refuse to link his blather because you'll just be dumber from having been exposed to it. I'm sure Parrish wouldn't want me dumbing down the UK fan base any further, lest his esteem for us be crushed into a singularity.

There. I feel better.

As for actual analysis, most of the elite media doesn't seem to care that IU misbehaved badly this year. They are expressing exactly the same type of attitude as they would have had if Xavier and Cincinnati had canceled their series prior to this year's fight. They don't understand that when things get out of hand, they can escalate, and there is a lot of pent-up bad blood between IU and Kentucky that needs to cool. Most UK fans recognized this immediately after the game, but those without a vested interest poo-poo it with a wave of the hand. Thank God Calipari gets it.

As for Crean, I don't blame him or Glass at all. They cannot afford to give in to UK right now. Calipari knows he has the upper hand in this negotiation, and so do Glass and Crean. I suspect if it was just up to Cal and Crean, there would be a deal of some sort, probably a compromise. But Glass was never interested in that, and this was the only face-saving move he had left.

Life will go on, as will this seres -- just not next year, and maybe not for a few years. That hasn't killed the UNC rivalry when it's happened in the past (and apparently it may happen again). Kentucky has other fish to fry, and the Louisville rivalry more than makes up for just about any other game that doesn't get played. Most teams only have one hot rivalry, and that's usually enough.

If you'll recall, I was bitterly against ending this series just to get another home game against a cupcake, but this is a different kettle of fish, and there has to be a consequence for the bad behavior at IU this year other than an "Oops, we're sorry we hurt your beauty queen, cursed at and threatened your fans." Sometimes, "I'm sorry" just isn't enough.

I warned the other day that this was likely kabuki theater. Calipari has more than one reason not to want the series renewed as evidenced by his poll earlier this year and his friendship with Crean, and that made it all the more likely that we would remain at loggerheads. But let's hear it from Coach Cal, via Andy Katz at ESPN:

Calipari said Kentucky has the date for Lucas Oil Stadium and still will try to schedule an opponent there next season.

"We were willing to play them both in the state of Indiana and they said no to that," Calipari said. "That means they don't want to play us."

In the interest of equal time, let's hear from Tom Crean as well:

"We couldn't have gotten our students up there," Crean said. "Prices would have been too much to get them there. We will have around 8,500 students.

"The bottom line is that they didn't want to play home-and-home and we did. We looked at it hard but it belongs on campus."

Not very hard, it seems. According to Matt Jones, IU dropped a bomb on UK with this news:

And this, from Glass:

Still, Glass kept some hope alive by acknowledging the series could be revived if Kentucky is willing to play games on campus. The most recent contract expired after December's game.

I hope he's not holding his breath. I know I'm not.

IU knew they weren't letting Kentucky dictate the terms a long time ago. It was never going to happen. As I said, kabuki theater.

When will we see this series renewed? I doubt it will be next year, more likely in two or three years after most of the bad blood has drained away and people on both sides decide to give it another go. In the meantime, perhaps the NCAA will arrange for UK and IU to be in the same bracket next March. You know how they love that made-for-TV drama.