Maybe you were a fan of it. Maybe you were not. Either way, the Crossroads Classic is dead.
Or, at least, it will be dead once the current contract expires at the end of this year, according to reporting from the Lafayette Journal & Courier’s Mike Carmin and IndyStar’s Zach Osterman. The annual four-team showcase featuring Indiana, Purdue, Butler and Notre Dame began in 2011 as the brainchild of former Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke and regularly drew decent holiday crowds to the state capital.
But from an IU perspective, the event seemed to run its course in recent years — a sentiment to which Purdue AD Mike Bobinski pointed in explaining its demise to the Journal & Courier:
“...a couple of the participants chose to opt-out and it’s no secret who those are – South Bend and Bloomington don’t want to continue the event. They have their reasons. I don’t necessarily agree with them but that’s their decisions.”
Indeed, there are a few reasons to explain Indiana’s stance. Scheduling is certainly one. Crossroads weekend annually falls just as the college football calendar is taking its pre-bowl season nap, making it an attractive window for made-for-television matchups. IU, of course, had to decline an invitation in 2014 to play alongside North Carolina, UCLA and Kentucky in the CBS Sports Classic, yielding its place to Ohio State. And with both the Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference pushing up the start of the league calendar and sprinkling games into December, there’s some value in a little more flexibility in the season’s second month.
There’s also the fact that while IU carries the event at the gate, it splits the payouts four ways. Indiana’s athletic department has always known it could make more money merely off a standard, ho-hum non-conference game at Assembly Hall, so there are some pretty understandable financial reasons for IU to turn its scheduling attention elsewhere. And it’s not like backing out of the Crossroads erases the possibility of seeing Notre Dame or Butler on the schedule in the coming years. Both programs could be possible matchups for IU in future editions of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and Gavitt Tipoff Games, respectively.
The shame of Tuesday’s news is that, while imperfect and a tad stale, the Crossroads Classic did produce some fun moments — Juwan Morgan’s muscular efforts in 2017 and 2018, and Rob Phinisee’s 2018 buzzer beater come immediately to mind. There was also the time, in 2015, when Notre Dame coach Mike Brey stirred up raw emotions prior to the matchup with IU when he called the Irish “the most consistent program in this state.” At a seemingly turbulent moment in his tenure, Tom Crean didn’t appreciate the reminder (and even for the always animated Crean, there sure seemed to be some added motivation for him on the sideline that year). IU shook off the boos that filled Bankers Life Fieldhouse after a sluggish first half and rebounded for a season-changing victory.
There’s also something to be said for an event that brings the state’s four high-major programs together for a full day of quality basketball. Although the nature of the yearly opponent rotations meant that the matchup everyone wanted to see — IU vs. Purdue — wouldn’t happen, the Crossroads Classic still managed to put a bit of a spotlight on the state itself.
Now, IU is presumably seeking a different kind of spotlight. Maybe you like it. Maybe you don’t. Either way, after 11 years at the Crossroads, Indiana’s schedule will be in for a shakeup.