When the NIT bracket dropped on Sunday evening, the most curious thing about an otherwise unremarkable bracket was Indiana’s choice to decline a home game in the opening round of the tournament — instead electing to play on the road in Atlanta against Georgia Tech.
Why did Indiana decline the home game, eliminate any chance for departing players to take the court in front of Hoosier fans one last time, and actively put the team at a disadvantage on Tuesday night?
First, ESPN cited “renovations” at Assembly Hall being a reason. Quickly, Indiana athletics disputed that report with something different: spring break.
Official explain: Indiana isn't not hosting because of "renovations." Declined to host first weekend, because students are on break. #iubb— Zach Osterman (@ZachOsterman) March 13, 2017
Indiana will voluntarily decline a home basketball game because of too many students being on spring break. Spring break. Spring break.
Here’s a quick list of all the other NIT hosts that will have students on spring break during the opening round of games.
- Colorado State
- Illinois State
10 programs — 10! -- aren’t worried about their lack of ability to fill the arena because students are on break. Only one of those programs (Syracuse) sees basketball fan support that comes anywhere close to that seen in Bloomington. But Indiana can’t host this game, because Spring Break, or something.
Sure, sure. This is the NIT. But this is a laughably bad decision from an Indiana administration that usually gets things right. An NIT game might not be a big deal for a run-of-the-mill ticket holder, but think what Indiana could’ve done with this game. Make tickets available at a low-cost for those that normally don’t have an opportunity — even donate large blocks to young kids or students that are still on campus! That’s not to mention the giant slap in the face this is to local fans that still likely would’ve turned out well on short notice for this game. Indiana basketball is still Indiana basketball, even in the NIT. It’s still something to do.
Still, even if the optics of a half-empty Assembly Hall is the concern (It shouldn’t be, everyone understands the logistical issues behind selling tickets to NIT games with 48 hours notice), why not play the game at a smaller venue on campus? Other programs have done this, Kentucky has done this in old Memorial Gym. Penn State played a game in old Rec Hall in recent regular seasons. It’s cool to watch basketball in an intimate setting. Why not the U-Gym, perhaps?
If you’re going to play in a tournament, play to win. With this decision, it seems like Indiana doesn’t really care about the NIT. If that’s the case, why bother?