by Kent Sterling
Dick Vitale wants Kentucky and Indiana to agree to play one another in a four-year series – one game each in Assembly Hall, Rupp Arena, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, and the Yum! Center in Louisville. He also wants cancer to stop killing kids.
The last time the two teams played a regular season game in late 2011, Indiana beat the top-ranked Wildcats on a buzzer beating three-pointer by Christian Watford. The crowd rushed the floor, and John Calipari has squawked that the lack of security at Assembly Hall put the health of his players, coaches, and fans at risk.
Calipari claims that was the reason he refused to return to Assembly Hall, and Indiana has refused to abandon the home and home scheduling because, they say, it’s unfair to the students to take a marquee home game away from them. In chess, that’s called a stalemate.
Vitale wants Calipari and Tom Crean to figure out how these two programs can resume a rivalry that is so important to so many fans and players.
For the last two decades before the series’ end Indiana vs. Kentucky wasn’t what it was back in the 1970s and 1980s until Watford hit the shot. From December, 1993, through the end of the regular season series, Kentucky won 14 and Indiana only five. Indiana was ranked in the top 25 for eight of those games, while UK was ranked 15 times.
The high school all-star series between Indiana and Kentucky prep stars has ebbed in the opposite direction. In the last 18 all-star games, Indiana has won 17 with future stars like Mike Conley, Eric Gordon, Greg Oden, Gary Harris, all of the Zellers, Jeff Teague, Courtney Lee, E’Twaun Moore and others starring for Indiana.
Vitale appeared on Dan Dakich’s radio show on 1070 the Fan in Indianapolis, and said that he talked to Calipari last Friday about the resumption of the series, but his plea fell on deaf ears.
Dakich suggested that if the coaches and athletic directors can’t get it done, the two university presidents should sit down and figure this out.
This would be a particularly nice event for Indiana fans who would like to see the Hoosiers play a non-conference schedule that is less cupcake and more steak. While Kentucky played Michigan State, Baylor, North Carolina, and Louisville, Indiana’s only ranked opponents were Syracuse (mandated by the ACC/Big Ten Challenge) and Connecticut. Interestingly, the only preseason game won by Kentucky or Indiana was the Lousiville vs. UK – the only game of the six to be played at either Rupp Arena or Assembly Hall.
Indiana fans would happily accept games against any major conference opponent rather than the parade of teams with RPI’s ranked 200 or lower, and if Kentucky is one of those – all the better.
Here’s a good way to assess non-conference opponents – if the AD can’t guess correctly what the mascot of a potential opponent is, they are ineligible to visit. Quick, what are the mascots for LIU-Brooklyn, Kennesaw State, Stetson, Samson, Stony Brook, North Florida, and Nicholls State? I know North Florida is the Ospreys because it is so unusual, and Stetson should be the Hats. Other than that, I’m drawing a blank, and I covered three of those games.
Vitale is constantly raising money to beat cancer, and does great work on behalf of kids with cancer. Click here to learn about how you can give to help Vitale end cancer – pediatric cancer specifically.
The least we can do is help a guy who fights for quality college basketball fight against something far more insidious. Indiana and Kentucky fans don’t agree about much, but the fight against cancer that attacks children is a pretty good place to start.