I was encouraged to hear that Indiana AD Fred Glass suggested the renewal of the rivalry between Kentucky and Indiana could be on the horizon, due in large part to the hiring of Archie Miller. I completely understand the decision to cancel the series on a home and home basis considering what happened in 2012. But animosity between UK and IU or Calipari and Crean really turned petty as the years went on. Which side is more to blame doesn’t matter anymore. What does matter is it appears the rivalry might be back on and I, for one, am excited about that. I know many in the fanbase disagree but here are the reasons why this is a good thing:
-IT’S A RIVALRY!!!
If you can’t recognize that IU is a rival then you’re just ignoring reality. They have been and always be a chief rival based on the history between the 2 schools and proximity. You know why UK and WKU are not rivals? Because they didn’t play regularly and when they did, rarely were the 2 teams great. IU and UK have played multiple classic games in their history and each opponent has been key in creating the legacy of their programs. They are not our top rival but they are absolutely still a rival.
-IT BEATS VIRGINIA TECH (or whatever forgettable non-conference game takes its place)
Since the rivalry ended in 2012, UK has played power conference non-conference games against Baylor (2012), Providence (2013), Providence (2014), Arizona State (2015), UCLA (2016), and Virginia Tech (2017). In theory, these are the games that took place where Indiana would have normally stood. Maybe you disagree, I would have rather played a regular rival like Indiana. Plus, in most of those years Indiana would have been a better opponent.
-WE’VE BEEN DOWN NOT THAT LONG AGO
The argument I hear most often is “Kentucky has nothing to gain from playing Indiana”. Of course, that argument has several flaws. First, at a basic level, there are very few teams in the country that UK “gains” anything from playing right now. Duke, North Carolina, Kansas, maybe Michigan State. So you can’t say that we gain nothing from playing Indiana but then support scheduling Virginia Tech and Providence. Secondly, we show our arrogance a bit when we act like our program superiority over Indiana, or anybody, is so great it’s not worth playing. Let’s not forget it was inside a decade ago that we were a pretty mediocre program. From 2005-08, UK and Indiana played 4 times. Twice both teams were unranked and twice Indiana was ranked higher. Imagine if they said after those 4 years that “they were too good for Kentucky”. That would have seemed silly, right?
–WE HAVEN’T EXACTLY DOMINATED INDIANA
Last 10 games vs Indiana: Kentucky 6, Indiana 4
All-time: Kentucky 32, Indiana 25
Now, those numbers could be more skewed towards UK but the series was dropped. UK would have certainly been favored in pretty much every year since 2013 if they have played (sans 2016).
At the most basic level, I understand those who don’t want to play Indiana anymore. 2012 was a pretty miserable experience and Tom Crean was a hilariously awkward nerd. And yes, Indiana hasn’t had a consistently good program since the late 90’s. But what I haven’t heard is what has been a better scheduling solution than having Indiana on it every year. Because so far the scheduling solution has been Baylor, Providence, and Virginia Tech. And if that is who you want, good for you and we’ll just disagree.
But give me a rival with some skin in the game and a history behind the series every year.