A rivalry tarnished? Crosstown Shootout may move to U.S. Bank Arena

CINCINNATI - I've dreaded this day since there were 9.4 seconds left in the 2011 Crosstown Shootout: A report has been published saying next year's XU-UC rivalry game will be played on neutral ground in downtown Cincinnati at U.S. Bank Arena.

The report published by the Cincinnati Enquirer indicating the game's move says there will be a two-year trial period for the matchup at U.S. Bank Arena, after which the game will be re-evaluated to see if a.) they move back to a home-and-home series or b.) they discontinue the series altogether.

Ugh.

The bright side: No confirmation of these reports from either school as of yet.

Xavier University's President Michael J. Graham and The University of Cincinnati's President Gregory H. Williams released a statement Tuesday saying they were both "surprised" to see the announcement concerning the future of the Crosstown Shootout. They then went on to say, "While both schools are committed to the future of the Crosstown rivalry, specific discussions are ongoing and no details have been finalized. We look forward to sharing our plans with the community at an appropriate time in the coming weeks."

Xavier's athletic director, Mike Bobinski, echoed a similar statement Tuesday, saying the announcement was "premature."

If the reports are true, the luster of one of the greatest rivalries in sports grows dimmer if this decision comes to fruition. Taking two of the closest college campuses that compete regularly and pushing them off-campus to play takes away from the game.

Those involved in the brawl were scolded by the media, had their images tarnished at every mention and had their community outraged at their actions.

But they moved on. There were suspensions, apologies and tears. The Bearcats banded together, played brilliantly the rest of the season and made a run deep into the NCAA Tournament, as if nothing had ever happened. After a bumpy road following the suspensions, Xavier figured it out too, proving once again that they are a national college basketball powerhouse on the court, not just a bunch of "gangstas."

Can one incident be the judgment for years of competition?

Consider this: Half of those suspended as a result of the Crosstown Shootout brawl have either left or been dismissed from their respective teams. Cincinnati's Yancy Gates graduated and Octavious Ellis was dismissed for misconduct. Xavier's Mark Lyons transferred and Tu Holloway has moved on to a hopefully bright NBA career. The suggested "cooldown" period for these two teams applies to few who were actually engaged in the brawl. Go back and look at the video . You'll find that most on the court were not looking to throw punches.

Why punish everyone involved, both spectator and athlete alike, by moving the game away from the exciting grounds on which it has been played for years?

Time to put your sarcasm hats on. Let's apply this idea elsewhere in college sports where there have been tiffs or fights in heated rivalry games.

Let's move Michigan vs. Ohio State football to Donnell Stadium in Findlay, Ohio. That should be neutral enough to keep fans calm with its 7,500 capacity.

The next time Louisville and Kentucky play, they should schedule their game in Frankfort at the Exum Center, the home court of the Kentucky State University Thorobreds. This will ensure that the students will be out of their element should they decide to start a riot following the conclusion of the contest.

North Carolina's matchups against Duke should also be moved. Peace College in Raleigh offers an aptly-named location to take the ferocity out of the 40 minutes. The Hermann Center Gym, capacity 500, will make for an easily-controlled atmosphere. No more Cameron Crazies. No more deafening roars at the Dean Smith Center. And as a publicity bonus, with a college name like that, a star like Metta World Peace (Ron Artest) might show up to support the competition. On second thought, thinking back to the Pacers-Pistons brawl in 2004, maybe he wouldn't be such a good guest.

While Xavier is at it, they should probably move their games against Dayton to a high school gym in Middletown, Ohio. That way we can prevent any scuffles to begin with.

I had already said before this past season's game that the Crosstown had been losing its charm the past few years with the diminished campout times allowed by each university. Now camping out becomes obsolete. Tickets will be handled through Ticketmaster and the U.S. Bank box office, with a certain allotment for XU students, and a certain allotment for UC students, released at a certain time for all, and in much less numbers than if the game was held at either school's arena. Not to mention lost revenue for each school's respective biggest home game of the year.

Who's got season tickets to U.S.

Bank Arena because they show their support for a certain Cincinnati sports team day-in and day-out like those at the Cintas Center and Fifth Third Arena? Oh, you're a Cyclones fan? Well, you must be used to fighting.

This would diminish the annual gathering around the game for the students, and they're the ones that care about this game the most.

Pre- and post-game on-campus celebrations would become obsolete, students now have to find a ride to even get to the game instead of being around their classmates all the way through tip off and the victory, no matter by which team, is so much less sweet in a neutral arena.

The only greater feeling than defending your home court is winning on the opposing team's home court. Taking this game downtown takes out both of those scenarios that these two teams have strived for so hard the past 80 years.

I won't even go in to how poorly set up U.S. Bank Arena is for basketball.

But really, what would the move change? The game is still a rivalry, so there will still be bumps and trash talk. There will still be some animosity from last year, both from the point spread of the game final and the actual brawl itself. Playing in a new arena does not magically smooth things over. If anything, it puts the fans at greater risk, exposing a larger mix of UC and XU supporters instead of the traditionally home team-dominant attendees.

So why move it? Why not take the lessons of game control learned from last year, apply those lessons and put on a successful basketball game in the exciting environments that have made it one of the best rivalries in sports?

We know we need more whistles. We know coaches' warnings about players' actions need to be heeded. We did not know that having RC Cola as the official soft drink of the Crosstown Shootout was a necessity to calm the atmosphere.

 

What are your thoughts? Should the Shootout be moved? Or would it ruin the hype around the game? Leave a comment in the section below.

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