As long as it’s up to John Calipari, it seems unlikely Kentucky will ever play another basketball game in Bloomington.
But what about … Dallas? Mavericks owner and IU alum Mark Cuban is willing to do whatever it takes to get Indiana and Kentucky back on the same floor. Appearing on the introductory episode of Coffee with Cal on Monday, Cuban prodded Calipari to resume the regular season rivalry series that has been dormant since 2011.
One of the options presented by Calipari was a game at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
“I’m negotiating this right now,” Cuban said in the middle of the episode.
“How about we play it in your building?” Calipari responded.
“Done,” Cuban agreed, before bringing the focus back to an on-campus contest.
“I offered two years in Indianapolis and (IU) said no,” Calipari said.
“I can’t speak for (outgoing IU athletic director Fred Glass), or whoever is taking his place,” Cuban said, “but at the same time, with all this stuff going on, I think close proximity will be important so that we don’t have to get on planes and fly somewhere. We just drive. I say we just flip a coin.”
Coin flip or not, it is highly unlikely that Calipari will agree to return to Bloomington after IU upset Kentucky on Christian Watford’s buzzer beater in 2011 and fans stormed the court at Assembly Hall. Among Kentucky’s excuses for backing away from the series was the department’s desire to not agree to any deal that locked Kentucky into a series for two or more years, according to the Bloomington Herald-Times. When Glass countered Calipari’s original Indianapolis proposal with two additional games at campus sites during a four-year cycle, Kentucky similarly balked.
Glass said in 2017 that he was willing to reconsider his proposal, and due to the strong family ties between Calipari and IU coach Archie Miller, there has been reason to believe that the series could return in the near future, even at a neutral site.
It’s what fans of both programs want. It’s what college basketball needs. And it’s something Cuban hopes to make happen, potentially as the sport’s first game coming out of the coronavirus crisis.
“Cal, I’m talking about right now,” Cuban said. “As we try to transition out of this, we need to get those first games — Lexington and Bloomington are so close. We flip a coin, decide where the game is played that way, we get on busses, we take the busses to whichever arena, and then we just throw the ball up, with fans or without, made for TV. If the NCAA doesn’t want to go for it, I’ll figure it out. … Let’s just do this. Let’s be that first game coming out for college athletics that gets the ball rolling.”
“Without fans, I’m in,” Calipari responded.
After 20 more minutes of banter, Cuban steered the conversation back to IU-Kentucky.
“If it’s one of those we’re gonna start it all, no fans, let’s go, then Kentucky gets beat because you got me to play, I gotta get some floor seats in Dallas,” Calipari said.
“Done,” responded Cuban. “Whatever it takes coach. I got you. Just think how much fun it would be. Get the kids on the bus, essential personnel only, no fans, put it on national television, just have the whole country going nuts because college basketball is back. It would be unbelievable.”
“I think it’s closer for them to drive to Lexington than for us to drive ...” Calipari said before Cuban jumped in.
“You know what,” Cuban said. “We’ll do this: We’ll set up a fund for some charity that really needs it an whichever side’s alumni donates the most, that’s where it’s played.”
“You’re done then,” Calipari responded, “because these people here are crazy.”
“I don’t know,” Cuban said. “B-Town rules!”