It looks like we’ll be saving at least one of college basketball’s best rivalries.
Missouri is leaving the Big 12 on less than ideal terms, meaning that their Border War with Kansas looks to be coming to an end, at least in the near future. Syracuse and Pitt are abandoning the Big East for the ACC, which means that Georgetown and West Virginia, respectively, will not be playing their biggest rivals in league play in the future.
The Crosstown Shootout, however, appears likely to survive.
“Every indication is that we are going to play next year,” University of Cincinnati president Greg Williams told Bill Koch of the Cincinnati Enquirer Monday. “We’re looking at it. (Xavier University president) Father Graham and I have talked about it a number of times.”
“I haven’t changed my thoughts, nor do I believe Xavier has changed our thoughts at all,” Xavier AD Mike Bobinski said. “Absolutely, we would like to see the game continue.”
A final decision has not yet been made — and it likely won’t for at least a month — but if all sides agree that the rivalry should continue, I’m not sure I see how it won’t.
And this, frankly, is a very good thing for both Xavier and Cincinnati, the city itself and college basketball as a whole.
The Crosstown Shootout is one of the best rivalries in all of college basketball. The teams and the fans genuinely dislike each other, which means that every game played between the two schools is is must-see TV. I, for one, circle the date of their annual battle on my calender the minute that the schedules are released. With both programs priding themselves on toughness and physicality, its no wonder that this matchup is always one of the most intense games of the season. Its a guarantee that every single article ever written about the game mentions, in some form, one of those three key words — intensity, physicality and toughness.
That’s why we tune in. That’s what we want to watch. Two teams competing that hard and wanting to win that badly is a rarity in college hoops in December.
And it was only a matter of time until that intensity boiled over. That happened on December 10th, when, with nine seconds left in the game, the jawing between Tu Holloway and Ge’Lawn Guyn erupted into a full-scale, bench-clearing brawl, complete with dozens of haymakers being thrown, a bevy of suspensions and one black and bloody eye, courtesy of a Yancy Gates sucker-punch landed on Kenny Frease.
Every year, at some point during the game, there would be a point in the game where there was some pushing and shoving. Technicals usually come early and often, and trash talk lasts the entire game. That’s what we want to watch. That’s why national writers descend on the city of Cincinnati every time the game is played.
And when you’re dealing with testosterone filled college kids that have their adrenaline pumping and their pride on the line on national television, it was only a matter of time until a fight broke out.
In no way am I trying to justify what happened on that day at the Cintas Center. It was an embarrassment to the sport and a black mark that each of the young men involved will carry with them for a long time. It was unacceptable. But the players aren’t the only ones to blame. The people that let the game and the rivalry get to that point — the referees that called the game too loose, the administrators and the coaches that let their players believe it was acceptable behavior in previous games, the media (myself included) that hyped the game because of its intensity — are also at fault.
In other words, we all want to see battles like that on the basketball court, and we all should have known the risks involved and what would happen if the game ever crossed that metaphorical tipping point.
And after what happened, I think it will be a long time before anyone lets it get to that point again.
So instead of getting rid of what could very well be the highlight of every season for the Xavier and Cincinnati programs and fanbases, the better option is to simply get back on the horse.
But do it right this time.
Call the technical fouls when players stat jawing. Use the bench to reinforce that pushing and shoving in unacceptable. Reinforce to everyone involved that what happened this year is unacceptable and simply cannot happen ever again.
We all make mistakes. We’ve all gotten in fights. Emotions are fickle, and there are times where they get the best of us. All of us.
Its what you learn and how you change afterwards that matters. And the best way to learn is to get right back on that horse.