The Big Ten is football country.
That’s what immediately comes to mind when you think of this conference. A big, bruising Wisconsin offensive line. The Big House during a noon kickoff. Archie Griffin taking one to the house in the scarlet and grey.
Except Indiana. The state, that is.
Hoops have just meant more here, ever since they installed the first glass backboards in the history of the sport at what is now known as Bill Garrett Fieldhouse in 1917. Why? Because the fans couldn’t see enough of the action and asked for change.
In this state, primarily known for its high school teams, players and tournament, two programs reigned above the others: Indiana and Purdue.
Indiana State had its moment with Larry Bird, Butler got the Brad Stevens era and Notre Dame has more history than most, but none of the high major programs match the Hoosiers and Boilermakers.
And there wouldn’t be Boilermakers without Hoosiers.
The state government was looking to take advantage of the Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act by establishing a new institution for agriculture and engineering. Indiana University was under consideration to be designated as Indiana’s land-grant that’d add on a new agriculture department.
Lafayette had been trying to get a competitive bid going for years, only getting the proposal over the line once local businessman John Purdue offered up $100,000, which became $150,000, on the condition that the college bear his name.
Lafayette outbid the already-existing Indiana University. The rivalry was on from the jump.
Names have passed through box scores, newspapers, fan’s lips and blogs as the years have gone on. Branch McCracken. John Wooden. Bill Garrett. Rick Mount. George McGinnis. Joe Berry Carroll. Scott May. Matt Painter. Mike Woodson. JaJuan Johnson. Eric Gordon. Robbie Hummel. Victor Oladipo. Carsen Edwards. Juwan Morgan. Zach Edey. Trayce Jackson-Davis.
This list will only continue to grow as the years go on and the two face off. History has seen Bob Knight throw a chair across the free throw line, Gene Keady stand up to him, Indiana hanging five championship banners and Purdue winning Big Ten titles.
The two, combined, have won over 39% of all Big Ten titles in men’s basketball.
Indiana, as a program, has been mostly lost in the wilderness since firing Knight in 2000. Would be successors have come and gone while Purdue had a clean transition from Keady to Matt Painter.
The Archie Miller era was among the worst in Hoosier fans’ memory, with his program having lost all eight of its matchups with the Boilermakers. It was then that the rivalry fell out slightly. Indiana still had energy for the games, but the ending stung year after year.
Then Woodson took the job and knocked off Purdue in his very first try, sweeping the Boilers the next year thanks to program legend Trayce Jackson-Davis and dazzling freshman point guard Jalen Hood-Schifino.
But this year’s blowout loss in Assembly Hall sent the fanbase back into doubt. How could such a thing happen? Well, ask Purdue.
Just over a decade ago the Boilermakers got blown to smithereens on their home court by the cream and crimson, a merciless 97-60 win that saw star big man (sound familiar?) and Indiana native Cody Zeller go for 19 points and 11 rebounds
Yet, after that, the rivalry still mattered. Purdue picked itself back up and got back to business.
No result can change this rivalry. A team can and will have the upper hand over the other for a period of time but, like most things, it is cyclical. Assembly Hall will always be ready for the Boilermakers. Mackey Arena will always be ready for the Hoosiers.
The rivalry will always matter. No matter what.