“Crosstown Shootout” Rivalry Slowly Gets More Watered DownPosted by EJacoby on June 15th, 2012
It appears that the ramifications from last December’s bench-clearing brawl are extending several years into the Cincinnati–Xavier rivalry’s future. The longtime city rivalry previously known as the “Crosstown Shootout” is returning next season, but with several new stipulations. Thursday it was announced that the game has been renamed the “Skyline Chili Crosstown Classic,” and that it will continue only temporarily for two more seasons. The U.S. Bank Arena in downtown Cincinnati will host the games rather than the on-campus arenas of either Cincinnati or Xavier. Everything about the matchup from the venue to the official logo is changing as both schools seek to erase the memories of last season’s vicious scuffle that left eight total players suspended. Is this rivalry just too intense for its universities to handle? It appears that way as the schools don’t seem to trust their players and fans to keep things under control going forward. While it’s great that the game will continue, the message sent by the schools is that they fear the worst when these teams will tip off next season. Given the recent diminishing spirit of cross-conference rivalries in the sport, it’s unfortunate that one of the most vibrant and longstanding showdowns is getting watered down after one incident.
Last season’s brawl between the two teams on December 10 was the low point of the college hoops season, as Xavier center Kenny Frease was left bloody after a Yancy Gates (UC center) punch resulting from an on-court scuffle involving several other players at the very end of a Xavier blowout victory. But the schools didn’t feel so strongly about the negative impact then as the longest suspension coming out of the brawl was a six-game ban for Gates’ vicious punch. The Cincinnati star forward was back before the Bearcats played another meaningful game and everything returned to normal. Both the Musketeers and Bearcats had terrific late-season runs that resulted in Sweet Sixteen appearances during the NCAA Tournament. It’s almost as if the brawl eventually led to newfound camaraderie within each squad (especially Cincinnati) and that the teams had learned the lessons of their massive mistake.
While neither school had the guts to suspend its culprits for any meaningful amount of time, both universities are now punishing the longtime fans and new players for the actions of guys who are (mostly) now gone from their respective teams. What is the message being sent here? Both schools want to uphold the image that they love this rivalry and it must stay for the sake of the fans, so the neutral location will allow an even split of supporters from both sides. Yet it’s obvious that the entire game is being changed from fear – the “Shootout” in the rivalry title was apparently just too racy. And by agreeing to just a two-year contract extension, the schools aren’t exuding much confidence in their abilities to make this game happen cleanly. Perhaps if the schools and head coaches had actually taken a stand and suspended the individual culprits for a meaningful amount of time last season the fans would not lose out as much in the future.
Obviously, the game could still produce terrific results. When the ball tips off, will fans really care that the contest is being played on a neutral floor and that the logo says “Skyline Chili Classic” rather than “Crosstown Shootout?” Television viewers probably won’t. But in the arena, there’s no question that the atmosphere will feel different. Anyone who went to college or has attended games as a spectator knows that on-campus arenas produce more involved crowds than neutral floors. Perhaps the city of Cincinnati becomes the exception, but you can bank on next season’s Xavier-Cincinnati game feeling watered down in relation to the heated, clean, classic rivalry it had been for so many years before December 2011.