The future of the Kentucky/Indiana series has been a hot topic this off-season, with Tom Crean and John Calipari at center stage of the standoff, refusing to blink. On Friday, both coaches made their stances known to the media, with Crean insisting on a home-and-home series, and Cal preaching the benefits of a neutral-site series. With the contract up and neither side willing to compromise, the series seems to be doomed.
It’s easy to see why Crean and Cal are so adamant in their arguments. Kentucky suffered its only loss of the regular season at Assembly Hall, which proved to be one of the more raucous home environments in recent memory. In fact, Indiana was downright stellar at home last season, winning 18 of 19 games in Assembly’s comfy confines. Crean knows the advantage he gets at home, evidenced by his squad’s upset of the number one team in the country last December. So, it’s not surprising that he’s unwilling to give that up.
Which is exactly one of the reasons Cal wants to take the series back to neutral sites, which would level the playing ground and boost ticket revenue. The series switched from home-and-home to neutral sites in 1991, rotating between Louisville and Indianapolis, and returned to a home-and-home series in 2006. I remember going to IU/UK games in Indianapolis and the distinct line between blue and red that divided the RCA Dome in half. While the quality of the games during that time wasn’t great (Kentucky won 12 of the 15 neutral site games), the atmosphere was fantastic. Cal is proposing returning to that model, selling it as mutually beneficial move, with both schools taking home an even share of ticket revenue. Plus, it gives fans that don’t have season tickets an opportunity to watch their teams play. At a neutral site, the game isn’t just a game–it’s an event, and a profitable one at that.
Of course, there’s the other side of Kentucky’s argument, which is equally as logical, but you won’t hear Cal discuss with the media. Kentucky doesn’t want to go back to Bloomington for the same reason Crean is insisting that they must: it’s harder to win there. The atmosphere in Assembly Hall last December was wild, to the point that some Kentucky fans and even players (looking at you, Darius Miller) were in danger. Whether we like it or not, last season’s upset revived this sleeping giant of a series. Kentucky’s barn-burning win over IU in Atlanta gave the Cats the last laugh, but as we’ve seen, Hoosier fans don’t go away quietly, especially when most polls have them as next season’s number one team.
With both teams high in the preseason rankings, the people behind the scenes have the opportunity to restore a rivalry that showed signs of life for the first time since the 80’s last season. To do that, one side must give in. So, what say you, KSR readers? Is the risk of losing in Bloomington worth the reward of beating Indiana in Rupp? Or would you rather see the series moved to Indianapolis and Louisville even though it may lose some its luster?