News and Tribune

February 4, 2014

SUDDEATH: IU, UK football doesn’t have to be meaningless


> SOUTHERN INDIANA — We always hear about compromise, and my friends, I believe I have found the ultimate solution to one of the most debated issues in Indiana and Kentucky sports.

As someone who truly understands the game of basketball, I’m naturally a UK fan. Yes, that was a cheap shot, and no, it won’t be the last.

Teasing your rival’s fanbase is one of the joys of sports, and UK fans certainly have endured some criticism from Indiana fans after the home-and-home basketball contract was not renewed following the 2011-2012 season.

In case you forgot, that was the season when Christian Watford drained a 3-pointer as time expired to knock off the heavily-favored Wildcats in Bloomington.

The crowd exploded after the shot, people went wild, and some IU fans put the donkey in Assembly Hall by their post-game actions, if you get my drift.

But UK coach John Calipari and Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart also seemed childish by refusing to sign a new contract with IU to continue the home-and-home rivalry.

Yes, playing at a more neutral site would likely ensure fairer officiating, but you have to play on the road some time, and Kentucky should have sucked it up so that the game could have continued to be played each year.

Being that IU hasn’t won an NCAA men’s basketball championship since gasoline cost 95 cents a gallon, UK should understand how important that victory was to Hoosier nation.

But enough of the pokes for a few paragraphs, as I’ve found an equitable solution to our problem.

There’s one thing most UK and IU fans can agree on, and it’s that our football programs stink. University of Louisville fans don’t laugh too hard, as your record would be pretty mediocre in football as well had the Cardinals’ toughest opponent on the schedule during past two years been someone other than Idle.

But little brother aside, let’s get back to IU and UK. Usually by mid-November, Kentucky fans have pretty much given up on UK football and are only thinking about basketball. Judging by IU’s pigskin record in recent years, I’m sure the feeling in Indiana about college football is about the same.

What if there were a way to boost interest in these sagging football programs while also producing a way to continue the basketball rivalry?

My friends, I have you covered.

I propose that UK and IU play an annual football game, and the winning school gets to decide where the upcoming basketball game is held.

Brilliant, I know. My mother always told me I’m smart and that I have a face for radio.

But in all seriousness, as crazy as UK and IU fans are about their basketball teams, that football game would be packed. It wouldn’t matter if both teams were 0-7 entering the game, I’m predicting it would still be a sellout.

Obviously for scheduling reasons, there would have to be some concessions. For example if they played this fall, the winner of the game could decide where UK and IU play the basketball game for the 2015-2016 season.

This would bring extra attention to the football programs and, most importantly, would bring us back our IU-UK basketball game.

Crazy? Maybe so, but I know my idea isn’t as silly as two of the most prominent college basketball teams in the nation continuing to starve their fans by not playing a great rivalry game.

But this does create a new problem — who gets to decide where the football game is played?