Crosstown Shootout Needs To Head Back To CampusPosted by Bennet Hayes on November 20th, 2013
There is little doubt that the 2011 Crosstown Shootout changed the Xavier-Cincinnati rivalry forever. For starters, there’s the fact that the Crosstown Shootout doesn’t even exist anymore. The Crosstown Classic is the new handle for the annual encounter between the two kings of the Queen City’s college basketball scene, but the revised moniker is far from the only amendment to come out of the ugly brawl. After alternating between Xavier and Cincinnati’s home courts for 22 years prior to and including the 2011 game, last year’s edition took place on neutral hardwood at downtown’s U.S. Bank Arena. That arrangement remains in effect again this winter, as the two schools will renew pleasantries on December 14. In the immediate aftermath of the brawl there had been some voices calling for an end, at least temporarily, to the rivalry, but the two administrations let cooler heads prevail and settled on this two-year neutral site plan instead. No long-term strategy was formed at the time, and reports released yesterday indicate that the wait-and-see approach is still in effect, as school officials have yet to reach a conclusion on where the rivalry will continue in 2014 and beyond. The only question does appear to be where, however; two years removed from the incident, both sides sound committed to ensuring that the rivalry rolls on. The latter is certainly great news, and while the patience and sensitivity surrounding this situation is understandable in many regards, two years of reflection will have been plenty long enough — it’s time to bring this game back to campus.
The Bearcats-Musketeers series dates all the way back to 1927, with the annual meeting having gone uninterrupted from 1946 to the present. Many of those encounters took place on neutral courts, including the three interesting seasons (1987-89) when the two schools actually shared a home court. So, taking the “Classic” (that just doesn’t sound right) away from campus was hardly unprecedented in the rivalry, but that doesn’t mean it should stay there. If we are speaking generally, college basketball as a whole derives much of its identity from the energy and enthusiasm of the sport’s on-campus homes. Rabid student populations and nuanced arenas deliver an experience unlike any you will find at an NBA arena. So why take one of the game’s premier rivalries away from that setting and into an approximated NBA facility? The answer, as it pertains to this year and last, is quite obvious, of course, but muting the emotions of this rivalry is only fair for so long. The Crosstown Classic has long been a highlight of the Cincinnati sporting calendar. If the series is going to continue, there is no reason why it shouldn’t carry on in all its glory.
After all, the rivalry was never better than it was between 1989 and 2011. In those 23 seasons that Xavier and Cincinnati alternated trips between campuses, the rivalry produced more than twice as many overtime periods as it had in the 45 seasons prior. Twice, Xavier felled a #1 ranked Bearcat squad – in 1996 at the Shoemaker Center on a buzzer-beating jumper by Lenny Brown, and in 1999 in the final Shootout at the old Cincinnati Gardens. Both schools found consistent national relevance throughout the two-plus decades – a development that was both consequence and prompt for a rivalry that burned as hot as ever.
Clearly, that heat got a little too hot in 2011. And while the decision to leave campus for two seasons was reasonable, the horrific actions of that handful of individuals (now mostly gone) should not destroy a rivalry that has provided countless memories for many thousands of people over the last seven decades. The game was played enthusiastically and competitively on-campus, and without an embarrassing brawl marring the event, for over 20 years. If the Classic is approved to return to Fifth Third Arena in 2014, there is no reason why it can’t continue in that fashion for decades moving forward. Really, any other decision would be an injustice to the great basketball city of Cincinnati, both fan bases, and every player and coach that had a hand in creating one of best rivalries college basketball has going today.