One of the great laments among people in college basketball circles is that the sport is gradually eroding in national relevance for all but the six-week sprint from middle of February to the end of the NCAA tournament.
Alas, with shortsighted decisions like the one administrators at Kentucky and Indiana made this week, can you blame many fans for choosing to ignore the majority of the regular season?
Indiana announced Thursday that it will not renew its series with Kentucky next season due to the Wildcats' insistence the games be moved to neutral sites rather than rotating between the two campuses. That means the series will take its first hiatus since 1969 in a year when the Wildcats are coming off their eighth national championship, the Hoosiers are likely to be next year's preseason No. 1 team and interest in both programs is at its zenith.
Uh, brilliant decision, guys.
"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," Indiana athletic director Fred Glass said in a statement. "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."
The race to spin this decision as the fault of one side or the other had already begun even before Indiana's announcement was released.
Those in red point out it's likely not a coincidence Kentucky no longer wants to play in Bloomington the year after the Hoosiers upset the Wildcats in front of a crowd so raucous a few fans in blue got swept up in the ensuing court-storming. With Indiana back among the elite again, it certainly wouldn't be as easy for Kentucky to continue its recent dominance in the series if it has to play in that hostile atmosphere once every two years.
Those in blue counter that Tom Crean certainly has plenty of incentive to push for home sites rather than neutral courts. Not only did Indiana win 18 of 19 games at Assembly Hall last season, including upsets against top-five Kentucky and Ohio State, the Hoosiers might feel like they're in a road environment even in Indianapolis due to how well Wildcats fans typically travel.
The reality, as with most impasses, is both sides are to blame. And their timing could not possibly be worse.
At a time when conference realignment is already robbing college basketball of some of its premier rivalries, it's a blow to the health of the sport when two of its top programs can't figure out a way to compromise. Kentucky and Indiana will thrive with or without this game, yet it's absolutely idiotic for them to throw away a showcase game revered by fans of both sides at a time when both programs are finally strong.
Play it on campus. Play it in Freedom Hall and Lucas Oil Stadium. Play it on an aircraft carrier. But just play.
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