When it started in 2011, the Crossroads Classic was looked upon with anticipation by the four in-state participants and their fan bases.
Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame and Butler every year in Indianapolis? Yes. Of course.
Heading into year ten, the event appears to be on life support.
What has changed over the last decade?
One variable is the trend towards expanding conference schedules that have leaked into the traditional non-conference month of December.
“With the leagues around America, in particular the ACC and the Big Ten going to 20 (conference games), there’s been some real discussion that the Crossroads could be something that’s very hard to pull off,” Indiana head coach Archie Miller said on Friday morning as his team prepares to face Butler at the event tomorrow.
In a normal 31 game season, Indiana now plays 20 Big Ten games, and is committed to playing in the Crossroads Classic, the Big Ten-ACC Challenge, and in most years, the Gavitt Games. That setup doesn’t leave much breathing room, especially in December, where Indiana has faced a gauntlet in recent years when the various events and the early conference slate converge.
While he was non-committal on the future of the Crossroads, Miller hinted that he would like to see a bit more flexibility going forward.
“We’re going to have to do what’s best for us,” he said. “Non-conference scheduling strength, flexibility is all in play. This year has been a little different, but as we head into the next couple years with setting up our schedules and trying to get marquee home and away games there is going to be a lot of talk and discussion with it (the Crossroads).”
Indiana might hold all the cards when it comes to the future of the event.
The Hoosiers bring the top brand to Indianapolis, but share the revenue with the other schools and help promote programs like Butler and Notre Dame.
“IU controls the thing,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said of the Crossroads in 2019. “They move the needle down there, so it’s going to be interesting what they do and what we do moving forward.”
The Crossroads contract runs through 2021.
Miller’s comments and a growing sentiment from the IU side over the last few years puts the continuing viability of the event in real doubt.
But whether the Crossroads continues beyond next season or not, Miller is resolute when it comes to IU continuing to play games in Indianapolis.
And while the timing and economics may not be optimal, the event has been entertaining for Indiana fans, with the last three games, all wins, decided in the final seconds.
“In dealing with the games, and understanding how special they’ve been and the environment is, it’s obviously something that we’d like to keep ourselves in the picture, especially in Indianapolis and Banker’s Life (Fieldhouse), Miller said.
“Indianapolis is definitely a part of our philosophy in terms of scheduling and being in Banker’s Life.”
One possibility is that IU would schedule a more marquee opponent each year in Indianapolis, against another program with a brand, and perhaps television appeal commensurate with the Hoosiers.
Whatever happens, it has been a good ride on the court for Indiana at the Crossroads.
IU has a 6-3 record all-time at the event, the best of the four schools. Unforgettable memories have been made, including Rob Phinisee’s buzzer beater against Butler in 2018.
Will it all become a footnote in the history of the program?
“We’ll see how it goes,” Miller said. “We’re committed to it until it finishes, and then we’ll have to see what every team is going to do and what’s best for them.”
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