On Monday, we wrote about a story that has been festering on the Kentucky and Indiana message boards but hadn’t exactly seen the light of day nationally quite yet.
Well, that changed Tuesday, as the potential disbandment of the Indiana-Kentucky rivalry — a game that has been played annually since the 60’s and has existed since the 20’s — went viral. CBS, Yahoo! and ESPN wrote on the topic, and the general consensus is obvious: we understand the issues, but we want you to fix them and figure out a way to keep this game on the schedule.
“The Kentucky game is still being talked about worked on, but it’s not set in stone because, as many of you know, Kentucky doesn’t want to play on our campus anymore and that’s certainly not our first choice,” Crean told the Associated Press on Friday. “Keeping it on campus is without a doubt our first choice and always has been since I’ve been here.”
Can you blame Kentucky?
Indiana is one of the best teams in the country heading into the 2012-2013 season and coming off of a year where they won 18 of 19 games at Assembly Hall. Why would Kentucky opt to play in that gym? Why would they want to enter that environment? With an expanded conference schedule (18 games), non-conference games against North Carolina and Louisville and a spot in the Champions Classic event, do the Wildcats really need another tough road game?
Coach Cal knows how to schedule and he knows when he is putting his team into a bad situation with too many difficult games.
And while Kentucky is the one that comes out looking selfish in this situation, keep in mind that the reason that Crean wants to keep the games being played on campus is the precise reason that Coach Cal doesn’t: Indiana is a dangerous team in front of their own fans. Why would Crean make the decision to give up that home court advantage against a rival?
And, of course, there’s the money.
“It has to be a win-win for both, and no one here is excited about taking it off campus,” Crean said, “but that doesn’t mean it won’t get done. It’s gotta be, no question, it’s gotta be a way two-way street. No one here ever had any intention of moving off campus, and obviously the finances play a part of it.”
Of course they do.
The bottom-line is this: Crean and Calipari don’t have the final say in this matter (that comes down to the Athletic Directors), but they do have quite a bit of sway. They’ve also spent a grand total of seven years at their respective posts; Calipari won the national title in his third season with Kentucky while Crean got Indiana back into the NCAA tournament in his fourth season in Bloomington.
This rivalry has been played every season since 1969, when Calipari was 10 and Crean was just three.
There is a historical significance to this game, which only makes the rivalry that much more intense given that Kentucky and Indiana are currently sitting on top of the college hoops world.
Hopefully, these Calipari and Crean — Pennsylvania and Michigan natives, respectively — recognize that.
We’ve already lost so much in college sports due to money and greed. The Border War between Kansas and Missouri may never be played again after Missouri bolted for the SEC’s money. Syracuse and Pitt were so concerned about the implosion of the Big East that they jumped the gun exiting the league, heading to the ACC where they will no longer wage conference battles against Georgetown and West Virginia, respectively.
Please, don’t let an argument about money end this rivalry.
Because, with the direction the two programs are headed, this is rivalry is about to become a top three regular season game. Every year.