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.