CINCINNATI - With public interest sagging, the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University are moving their basketball game back to campus and giving back its name two years after their 2011 bench-clearing brawl.
From a marketing standpoint, they decided they couldn't afford not to.
UC President Santa Ono is one fan excited by the changes.
I hope all the Bearcat fans are happy that the Crosstown Shootout is coming back to UC and a home and home format. Great Cincy tradition— Santa J. Ono (@PrezOno) May 12, 2014
Saying they wanted a cooling-off period, the schools played their annual game downtown at US Bank Arena the past two years and changed the name to Crosstown Classic after the embarrassing, nationally-televised melee at Xavier's Cintas Center.
But the public didn't show nearly as much enthusiasm for the neutral court or the neutered name, and neither game sold out.
Both athletic directors - new on the job since the brawl - explained the move at a joint news conference Monday.
"The passion, the energy, having the students at the game - that's so important on a lot of levels, and we're thrilled to bring it back to campus," said Xavier AD Greg Christopher. "It's the right thing for this series moving forward."
"It's important for the student-athlete experience to be at the highest level and that happens when there's a sold-out arena," UC's Mike Bohn said.
That goes for fans and the TV audience, too. And starting next year, the Shootout will be a part of the home team's season-ticket package.
Bringing back the Shootout name "just feels right," Bohn said.
"There's some equity there and I believe it's important to take advantage of as many opportunities for momentum as we have. There's great history associated with some terrific games. I'm well aware of the other challenge that we have. but we're moving past that.
"The sponsors like it, so we like it as well," Bohn said.
The series will pick up at UC's Fifth Third Arena next season and alternate courts for 10 years under a new agreement. The next game is Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2015 and ESPN2 will show it as part of its Rivalry Week.
Xavier's next home game in the series is Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015.
Two years ago, ESPN named UC-Xavier one of college basketball's Top 10 rivalries.
The two schools have played 81 times since 1928 with UC holding the edge 49-32. But Xavier leads 20-15 since 1980 and 9-5 in the 21st century.
The brawl broke out with 9.4 seconds left in Xavier's 76-53 victory on Dec. 11, 2011. Each school suspended four players, condemned the incident and apologized afterward.
Media commentators castigated both teams while UC and Xavier fans mostly blamed the other team's players for instigating it.
Both teams had been jawing at the other, as rivals usually do. With Xavier headed for a blowout victory in the final seconds, XU star Tu Holloway was doing a lot of the yapping. The tension was boiling, and then three freshmen blew the top off.
UC's Ge'Lawn Guyn got into Holloway's face, and Xavier freshman Dez Wells shoved Guyn to the floor.
UC freshman Octavious Ellis came off the bench throwing the first punches at Wells and Holloway, and the brawl was on.
UC forward Yancy Gates didn't throw the first punch, but he threw the biggest one – right to the face of Xavier center Kenny Frease, knocking him to the floor.
UC suspended Gates and teammates Cheikh Mbodj and Octavius Ellis for six games and Guyn for one game.
Mbodj kicked Frease while he was down on the floor after getting punched by Gates.
All suspensions included mandatory NCAA one-game penalties for fighting.
For Xavier, Wells and Landen Amos were suspended for four games, Mark Lyons for two and Holloway for one.
In a post-game news conference, Holloway enflamed the situation by calling himself a "gangster on the court" defending his turf.
A day later, Holloway apologized.
"We are not thugs and we are not bad kids here at Xavier University," Holloway said. "I really apologize for what happened yesterday."
A year later, most of perpetrators were gone, and the rivalry resumed without incident.
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