The atmosphere in Bloomington.

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)

While I don’t want to do anything that will dampen the enthusiasm for IU’s incredible win over Kentucky last weekend, since it been discussed a fair amount by friends and foes alike, and on this site over in the Fanposts, I certainly don’t want to give the impression of dodging the issue. The issue, of course, is IU fan behavior in and outside of Assembly Hall on Saturday. To some degree, I am limited in what I can say because I wasn’t there and because I have never seen at IU the sort of atmosphere described by Kentucky fans in the various e-mails being circulated. Unfortunately, I don’t get to many games these days, and I’ve been to only one IU home basketball game in the last five years or so. I certainly have seen instances of bad fan behavior by IU fans, but I’ve generally found IU fans to be pretty sedate compared to those at other schools. This was especially true when I was a student at IU. Assembly Hall was a very tough venue for opposing teams in the Knight era, but that had more to do with the quality of the teams than with the intensity of the crowd.

The account that has generated the most interest is this account at Kentucky Sports Radio. Frankly, I found this account to be fairly implausible in a couple of respects. The first oddity is that the e-mailer described his experience while pregaming at Nick’s to be the worst thing that he has ever seen in an American town. Naturally, then, after the game and with Bloomington at a fever pitch, and having already had the worst experience of his life, he decided to go to Kilroy’s. Really? Second, the e-mail says that he had tickets to the game, and that no one was nice to him all day, yet his experience inside Assembly Hall did not merit a single mention, good or bad. If he were mistreated inside the arena, while on IU property and under the protection of its employees, I would think that would warrant a mention above all else. Since he didn’t mention it, I would have to assume that nothing worth mentioning happened inside the arena.

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?

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