Thursday, May 31, 2012

IU vs. UK Basketball – Just Play the Bleeping Game

So now we know that Fred Glass, as a letter writer caught up in Cream ‘n Crimson passion, isn’t the world’s greatest speller when it comes to John Calipari’s last name. That bit of minutia comes as tweeters pick apart the letter IU’s athletic director sent to Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart.

We also know that the drama that is the Indiana-Kentucky series continues.

Here’s our unasked-for helpful suggestion:

Play the bleeping game!

Play it at Lucas Oil Stadium, on an aircraft carrier, at Rupp Arena or Assembly Hall, or at George Clooney’s villa on Lake Como in Italy.

Who gives a hoot at this point.

Play the bleeping game!

IU and Kentucky might very well be No. 1 and No. 2 in the country by December. This could be the most watched sporting event of the month, maybe of the season. It would be great for recruiting, marketing, promotion and more.

What you don’t want is the Hoosiers end up replacing Kentucky with, say, Kentucky State. People want to see Pacquiao vs. Mayweather, or Ali vs. Frazier in their prime. They want to see IU vs. Kentucky. They don’t want the basketball equivalent of Ali vs. Mr. Potato Head.

Play the bleeping game!

As for all that anguish over how playing at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium will screw over IU students unable to attend a game there, that’s hogwash. Students are resourceful. They will find a way, either on their own or via university-planned transport.

Play the bleeping game!

Things went public after the Bloomington Herald-Times’ Dustin Dopirak forced the Hoosiers hand by using the Freedom of Information act to get a copy of that letter, which was last Friday.

In it Glass showed the incredibly reasonable and generous compromise he offered Barnhart to continue a series that has become, for the most part, one of the most compelling national basketball rivalries in the nation for the last 43 years.

And that Barnhart said no.

By now you know the basics, that UK coach John Calipari wanted to play major non-conference games at large neutral site facilities because of the “non-traditional” nature of his program and to help prepare his teams for the NCAA tourney.

In other words, because he consistently signed one-and-done guys, because there was such a high turnover in his program, Kentucky had to schedule differently.

You can believe that. Or, you can believe, that after losing at Assembly Hall last December, he wanted no part of that experience ever again. As Hoosier Deep Throat would say, the sucker was scared.

Calipari, of course, says fear isn’t in his nature. He’s just looking out for what was best for his program.

Whatever the reason, he convinced Barnhart to go along with it.

Indiana officials, understandably, wanted to continue playing at Assembly Hall and Rupp Arena. The Assembly Hall atmosphere last December was as electric and thrilling (see above photo) as you could have in a universe that spawned Terrell Owens. They didn’t want a neutral site and they didn’t want Calipari getting a venue in Indianapolis, which has become a recruiting hotbed.

So IU announced that the series was over and the Wildcats were the villains.

Given that it takes two parties to have a dispute, given how big this game would be no matter where it was played, villainy was shared.

So after a week of getting slammed, Glass resumed negotiations and compromised that the games could be played at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium in 2012 and 2013, then at Rupp Arena in 2014 and Assembly Hall in 2015. He even offered to pay half of a $100,000 buyout with Portland, or help work something out with Samford, to ensure Kentucky would have the early December dates open to accommodate a game with Indiana.

Barnhart said no.

Now, it gets a little tricky, with both sides accusing the other of being rude and not getting back to them and leaving them in limbo.

Nobody wants to be in limbo.

So Glass sent his letter. In it he said, “We were back to Kentucky’s take-it-or-leave-it demand that we play only on a neutral court with no opportunities to play on our campuses in front of our students and other season ticket holders.”

He ended by saying, “Unfortunately, Kentucky’s refusal to consider anything other than a two year neutral-site contract only based on your new “non-traditional” scheduling philosophy has doomed a series that should be bigger than that.”

Barnhart, as you can imagine, had a different view. Basically, he said that after IU ended things on May 3, Kentucky reached a two-year deal with Baylor –- one year at Rupp Arena, one year at Dallas. It restarted a home-and-home series with North Carolina. It finalized dates with Portland and Samford.

Barnhart said Kentucky didn’t want to back out on Portland or Samford so late in the scheduling process. He also said the Wildcats wanted to stick with just two-year contracts and that a four-year deal with Indiana would jeopardize its home-and-home series with Louisville.

He ended his response by saying UK was still leaving Dec. 15 and Dec. 22 open to play, and that IU and Lucas Oil Stadium were available on those dates to make it work. He said they should play the neutral site games the next two years and keep talking about playing on campus for the years after that.

In other words, the series wasn’t dead yet.

Of course, you’re dealing with bluster and egos and wanting to avoid, at all cost, the impression of having caved. IU officials firmly believe they have fully compromised and that Kentucky officials haven’t met them in the middle, or even a quarter of the way.

In the meantime, there was been a public relations cost to both schools in all of this, which was so unnecessary given that this will be such a compelling game.

A cynic would say this was done to jack up a HUGE TV contract, because all of this will make the game even bigger than it was before. That all this drama is just a game, a conspiracy, a trick to make even more money.

Whatever. It doesn’t matter.

Just play the bleeping game!

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