The renewal of the Indiana and Kentucky college basketball series is a popular topic for the fans and media, but until recently we hadn’t heard much from the head coaches.
Kentucky head coach John Calipari shared his thoughts in an interview with IU alumnus Mark Cuban in April.
This week, IU head coach Archie Miller weighed in.
Miller was asked on the Aaron Torres Sports Podcast whether he believes the series will ever be reignited.
“I do,” Miller said. “Number one, it’s a great game, and it’s going to generate great fanfare, it’s going to generate great camaraderie with the schools, and television.”
Although he hails from the Pittsburgh area, Miller is a student of the game.
He knows the significance of the series of course, and he remembers what it used to look like.
“In general, if you go back, you look at a split RCA Dome with half blue and half red, those are some of the games people grew up watching,” he remarked.
Although Miller believes that a series revival has promise, don’t expect anything soon, and certainly not during the 2020-21 season.
Both teams have loaded non-conference schedules, and of course there is uncertainty as to whether or to what extent those games will be played.
“Obviously this year, it’s not going to happen,” Miller said. “As we move into the future and break through some of these non-conference contracts and some of these events and things that kind of come and go, maybe there’s an opportunity for us to be able to do this thing again.”
For as much attention as the dormant series gets publicly, fans might be surprised to learn how little it is discussed inside the walls of the respective athletic departments.
When it comes to Miller and Calipari, the two have never talked directly about playing against each other.
But that doesn’t mean the topic isn’t broached from time to time.
“Conversations fly through both offices at times,” Miller said. “Cal and myself have never spoken directly about it. We’ve had intermediaries, especially our administrations continue to kind of bump around and talk about it.”
It was an interesting time for Miller to be asked about Calipari, a long-time friend.
Calipari had recommended that Miller add Bruiser Flint to his coaching staff when he took the IU job in 2017. Flint worked for Calipari as an assistant coach at UMass from 1989 to 1996.
Just last week the news broke that Flint was leaving Bloomington to reunite with Calipari at Kentucky.
Miller doesn’t seem to be holding a grudge.
“Coach Cal is the best of the best,” Miller said. “To see what he’s doing out there with the McLendon (Minority Leadership) Initiative, to see what he’s able to do for people in general. He helps a lot of people and doesn’t get as much credit as he probably can.”
Along those lines of helping others, Miller thinks a greater purpose than just basketball might be the ticket to renewing the series down the road.
“You know what, maybe college basketball in general, getting through this pandemic, maybe being able to raise awareness for civil unrest or whatever it may be, maybe Kentucky and Indiana can be a part of something even bigger than just the two schools, Miller said.
“I think in the future here if it is pulled off, it will be really good and it will be done for the right reasons, which is for both places to look really good at the end of the day for a good cause, and maybe just in general it’s good for college basketball.”
The latter point is undeniably true. The game of college basketball needs more marquee matchups, and more rivalries.
Indiana vs. Kentucky is a series that dates back to 1924. The programs have met 57 times since then, including every year from 1969 through 2011.
For fans of the programs and of the sport in general, it was must see television if you weren’t part of the red or blue seas of fans.
With attendance numbers on the decline and the game no doubt needing a boost coming out of the pandemic, it would be a prudent move by everyone involved to revive the series.
Miller seems confident that at some point down the line we will see the two iconic programs meet again during the regular season.
“I think that he (Calipari) has his own dynamic scheduling like Indiana does as well. But it’s something that I think in the future that can happen, and I think that it will happen when it makes sense for both schools and both schedules, Miller said.
“I don’t know where it starts and I don’t know where it finishes, but I do know that it will happen when it’s right.”
To watch the full 40-minute podcast with Miller, GO HERE.
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