BOZICH | Vitale's Big Push: UK-IU Game To Benefit Young Cancer Patients
LAKEWOOD RANCH, Fla. (WDRB) – The first question people have asked Dick Vitale all week is predictable:
Where does the epic game that Duke and Syracuse played last Saturday rank among the hundreds of college basketball games Vitale has worked for ESPN?
"Top five," Vitale said. "No doubt about that."
But the more he thinks about what a wonderful moment Syracuse-Duke was, the more Vitale asks himself this question:
What can he do to get the Kentucky-Indiana rivalry re-ignited after a gap of two seasons?
That was a game that was regularly remarkable. Now they don't play. That's not so awesome, baby.
"I say it to all of you, that game has to happen," Vitale said during an interview at his home on Wednesday "Please put pressure. Write to (UK coach John) Calipari. Write to Tom Crean (of IU). Get it done. You fans deserve it. The players deserve it. All the people in the basketball community deserve it. There's no way shape or form that Kentucky and Indiana should not play.
"And two people are controlling that decision -- Tom Crean and John Calipari -- I love them both. Have the game happen. I've left messages for them. It's only good for the game. Think about the game of basketball that's been good to you, Tom and good to you, John.
"Now you've got to give back and sometimes eat a little pride. So you make a trip to Bloomington. You make a trip to Rupp. Big deal. Play the other two at the Hoosier Dome (Lucas Oil Stadium). And then make a nice donation to the V Foundation to help kids battling cancer."
Vitale is not playing to the television cameras or his nearly 600,000 followers on Twitter. He mentions the broken Kentucky-Indiana rivalry every time we talk.
In fact, Vitale said that on Wednesday afternoon, he made three calls – two to Calipari and another to Crean.
Vitale said that he left long, passionate messages for both coaches, alternately encouraging and admonishing them to work out the scheduling impasse. In fact, Vitale wants to put an exclamation point on the series when the Wildcats and Hoosiers eventually play again by creating a cause:
He wants the game to generate $250,000 for a grant in his battle against pediatric cancer. If anybody can make that happen, Dick Vitale can make that happen.
For the record, Vitale said that the last regular season game that Kentucky and Indiana played – the one that interrupted the rivalry – also ranks in his top five because of the dramatic way the game ended on Christian Watford's game-winning shot for the Hoosiers. That game was played Dec. 10, 2011.
IU's 73-72 victory inspired a wild, but understandable, storming of the Assembly Hall court by the Indiana students. Calipari, his staff and players had to zig, zag and look for security to help them return to the locker room.
Calipari was already reluctant to make a third trip to Assembly Hall. He wanted the series moved away from campus arenas and played at Lucas Oil Stadium. Calipari didn't need another reason not to come back. But now he had one.
Crean and IU athletic director Fred Glass oppose the idea of only playing at neutral sites. Their compromise plan was a four-season contract – two games at Lucas Oil, one at Rupp and one at Assembly Hall. They argue that every student at the two schools should have the opportunity to watch the game on campus.
That's where it sits. Impasse City, Bay-Bee.
Vitale will turn 75 in June. His plan is to keep calling games at ESPN. He has worked several Kentucky-Indiana games. He intends to work at least one more. Even if he has to be the one who brokers the disagreement.
"The game really is a must for a college basketball," Vitale said. "Please make it happen. … it would be the best thing in the world for college basketball.
"I don't care where they play. Play it on a playground. Play it on Lucas Oil Stadium. Play in Assembly. Play in Rupp. But the game has to go on … But you fans, put the heat on those two guys to get it done."
With young cancer patients as the beneficiary.
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