DES MOINES, Iowa --- Will the annual Indiana-Kentucky series ever be continued?
That was the question posed to both Tom Crean and John Calipari Friday afternoon, just more than 24 hours before their two programs will meet in the round of the 32 at the NCAA Tournament. Indiana and Kentucky haven't played since the 2011-12 season, the year of Christian Watford's iconic buzzer-beater in the regular season and Kentucky's national championship in the postseason.
The series ended that year, and a new agreement could never be reached. Indiana wanted to play one game on each campus and a third at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. Calipari refused to budge on his stance of playing on at neutral sites, even going so far as to agree to play all the games at Lucas Oil Stadium. But IU didn't budge either, and that was that.
"I think that game can always come back," Crean said Friday. "I don't think anybody has ever closed the door on that series. Certainly it's not open right now with anything that makes a lot of sense, but hopefully someday it will. Nothing is in the works right now. I think both sides know how each other feels, and if it comes down to a business decision, then that's what it is.
"As a fan of college basketball, as somebody that has a lot of respect for their program, I hope that at some point in time we can get something going like that. I don't think there is any door closed that couldn't be opened again, put it that way."
While the public divorce between rivals initially caused some animosity between the two schools and coaches, Crean and Calipari both acknowledged they remain close friends. Calipari said he and Crean talk about "once every two weeks," and they have a great respect for one another.
"He has been good to me for a long time," Crean said. "I think we have a friendship that transcends basketball. He is a very encouraging person to me, I think I understand him, and I hope I'm encouraging to him."
"I've always respected his work ethic, his basketball knowledge," Calipari said, "I love being around guys that like to talk basketball and Xs and Os, and he's one of those kind of guys. He's into basketball."
How sweet, both schools are playing nice. But back to the original question: Will the Indiana-Kentucky series ever come back? Maybe, but not anytime soon.
"For the next few years, because we're in all these kinds of events, it's probably not an option," Calipari said. "This used to always be neutral. When coach [Bob] Knight was there, it was always a neutral game, and that's all I proposed. I even said, 'Let's play in Indianapolis every year, play it in the football stadium. We'll get 75 or 80,000 people there and it will be a crazy game.' I understand they need home games and that's what we want. There is no issue with me. We've got our schedule, they've got theirs. It hasn't hurt us, it hasn't hurt them."