BLOOMINGTON, IN - DECEMBER 10: The fans rushed the court after the Indiana Hoosiers beat the Kentucky Wildcats 73-72 in the game at Assembly Hall on December 10, 2011 in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
All that said, there are enough accounts of misbehavior (see this one from a Danville, Kentucky newspaper), and enough Youtube videos of profane chants by IU students, that I think there is a pretty strong circumstantial case that some IU fans were comfortably over the line on Saturday. That’s unfortunate, and I hope that Fred Glass and Tom Crean address it forcefully with IU students and with season ticketholders. While it disappoints me that some Kentucky fans had bad experiences, as I said a few days ago, there are a lot of factors that probably led to the atmosphere. First, it was the biggest game IU has played in four years, and came on the heels of the worst three seasons in IU history. The game was competitive all the way. The 5:15 start was particularly well-suited to pregame drinking to excess. And then there is this: while IU fans have plenty of distaste for Purdue, there is at least a grudging respect for Purdue’s program and the way the Boilermakers play, and the sense that they generally (although not always–don’t forget the sham loan scandal in the late 1990s) do things the right way. IU fans have no such grudging respect for Kentucky. While the UK teams always are respected as a formidable foe, there is no program in all of college athletics held in lower esteem by IU fans than Kentucky. Fairly or not, IU fans view UK and a program whose accomplishments have been mostly ill-gotten and see their current coach as disreputable. Fair or not, that’s how IU fans generally see it. Again, I don’t say any of this to excuse any bad behavior that happened–and it is certain that some bad behavior happened. But that’s the best I can offer for the factors that contributed to an atmosphere that doesn’t sound like anything I have ever seen in Bloomington.
A Sea of Blue has a post about this, and I generally appreciate Glenn and the work he does there and his perspective about this issue, but I have to disagree with a few of his commenters, who seem to fall into a couple of camps:
1. What do you expect from a bunch of Bobby Knight worshipers? I love this one. Never mind that current IU seniors were 10 years old when Knight coached his last game at IU. Anyone who followed IU and attended games during the Knight era knows that this is nonsense. What made Knight enigmatic to his supporters and a hypocrite to his detractors is that despite his own faults, he held his players and IU fans and students to very high standards. Not only did Knight not tolerate profane chants, he even thought that waving arms during an opponent’s free throw attempts was rude. I saw him tell the students in the north end bleachers to knock it off on many occasions. This is a pretty common canard from UK fans, and it’s hardly surprising. No fan base whips itself into a more self-righteous lather about Bob Knight’s foul mouth and bad temper than UK fans. I think it is a defense mechanism. Given Kentucky’s sordid history, it seems very, very important for UK fans to exaggerate the flaws of other programs. If the Assembly Hall crowd has become a little rough, and I think it has, that is distinctly a post-Knight phenomenon.
2. Cancel the series. IU needs it; UK doesn’t. Hey, whatever floats your boat, guys. This is a great series, and it has been played every year for over four decades, but if you want to throw that away, it’s not going to do any meaningful damage to IU's program in the long run. Frankly, I think college basketball needs this series more than either program does. Further, Rick Pitino’s public comments have made clear that the resumption of the IU-Louisville series could be accomplished with a single phone call. I do think IU needed Saturday’s game, but that’s already in the books. I would hate to see the series go by the wayside, but I have no doubt that IU could find another top-shelf program willing to create a series.
Again, I don’t mean to rationalize or to make excuses. I love IU and I love Bloomington, and I want everyone who visits, even Purdue and Kentucky fans, to have a good and safe experience. To the extent that I can speak for the IU fan base, then I sincerely apologize to any Kentucky fan who was mistreated on Saturday. I think it's important for the IU coaches and administration to look into these issues and ensure that Assembly Hall remains a tough yet positive and family-friendly atmosphere.
Finally, we've heard a lot of first-hand accounts from Kentucky fans. What say you, IU fans who were at the game? What did you see and hear?