BOZICH | Maybe Louisville would take the Indiana basketball offe - WDRB 41 Louisville News

BOZICH | Maybe Louisville would take the Indiana basketball offer Kentucky rejected

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Rick Pitino's offer to play Indiana in Louisville deserves more discussion. Rick Pitino's offer to play Indiana in Louisville deserves more discussion.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Maybe an idea that did not excite John Calipari will captivate Rick Pitino – a four-game Louisville-Indiana basketball series, with two games played at a football stadium in Indianapolis and the other two booked in home arenas.

Take two intensely marketed cracks at the college basketball regular-season attendance record at Lucas Oil Stadium, and also reward home fans and students for their loyalty with one game at the KFC Yum! Center and another at Assembly Hall.

IU athletic director Fred Glass and coach Tom Crean made that reasonable offer to Calipari and Kentucky several years ago. Kentucky passed.

Maybe Pitino would shake hands on a similar proposal. The schools should talk. Explore, Discuss. Get creative. Find ways to stay in the national spotlight.

Pitino started this chatter Tuesday when his Louisville team defeated the Hoosiers, 94-74, in New York City. There was plenty to howl about after that game in Madison Square Garden.

Substantial contributions were made to the Jimmy V Foundation. The offense played by both teams entertained in a season where scoring has often been dismal.

The TV numbers were solid. The national exposure upgraded Montrezl Harrell's case in the national player of the year discussion. A good time was had by all.

Here is a statistic that lagged – the crowd.

The official box score listed the attendance as 11,617.

Louisville vs. Indiana is not an 11,617-fan game. The Hoosiers and Cardinals should never play in front of one person less than 17,472 because that is the listed capacity of Assembly Hall, IU's home in Bloomington.

U of L-IU is a game that would fill any local arena – Assembly Hall, the KFC Yum! Center or Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Pitino floated a bigger, bolder idea. Play at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and topple the college basketball attendance record of 78,129, set by Kentucky and Michigan State when those programs met at Ford Field in Detroit 11 years ago.

Thumbs up. Throttle up.

It's time to watch IU and U of L fill a football stadium with a Final Four-sized passion dressed in red, black, cream and crimson. Make it happen.

Let's take Pitino's idea up a notch: How about a four-game series featuring those two games at Lucas Oil Stadium, plus two more played the old-fashioned way -- in the IU and U of L home arenas?

A reward for home fans who buy all those tickets to North Carolina-Wilmington, Grand Canyon and Savannah State.

A treat for IU and U of L students who paint their faces and line up in the cold for Lamar and Florida International. Students on each campus would get one crack to watch the rivalry during their stays on campus. Glass, an IU graduate, believes the homecourt games are essential.

Two in Indy, one in Louisville, one in Bloomington.

Sound familiar?

It should. It's a snapshot of the deal Glass made to Kentucky after Calipari said he had made his second and final trip to Assembly Hall on Dec. 10, 2011, the last time the Hoosiers and Wildcats played a regular-season game.

Calipari declined. Indianapolis only, please. Assembly Hall gave him heartburn.

Kentucky has moved on, juicing its schedule with a home-and-home series against UCLA as well as a four-team event that features the Bruins, North Carolina and Ohio State and other goodies. The Tar Heels are in Rupp Arena Saturday. Texas was in town last weekend. You'll see the Wildcats in Louisville.

Scratch Kentucky from that contract proposal and replace the Wildcats with Louisville. The series would still sizzle. StubHub would approve.

Could the Cardinals and Hoosiers stuff 78,130 or more fans into Lucas Oil Stadium?

I think so, especially if Pitino and Crean worked to motivate their fan bases in the most Pavlovian manner: Erase Kentucky from the attendance record book.

(Of course, Calipari might schedule a game against the Sixers with the Blue Platoon and another against the Lakers with the White Platoon 20 minutes after the Cardinals and Hoosiers left the building. But game on. First one to attract a crowd of 100,000 wins.)

Enlist a charity to the party. Make calls to ESPN, CBS, FoxSports and the SEC Network (insert laugh track). TV guys are looking for Saturday programming in mid-December after the college football regular season ends.

This would qualify. The old Big Four doubleheaders at the RCA Dome in Indianapolis, the ones that featured U of L, IU, UK and Notre Dame, were often played on Heisman Trophy weekend in mid-December. It worked. Crowds of 40,000 or more gathered. Pitino was part of that fun as the Kentucky coach.

Calipari has surged ahead in the marketing game because he's relentless and creative. This four-game series would show that the Cardinals and Hoosiers know how to stage a basketball party, too.

Make it happen.

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