Bloomington - When it comes to rivalries, "hatred" is usually reserved for the fans.
Supporters of various college programs might hold their crosstown or intrastate nemeses with a disturbing amount of contempt. They might find the thought of ever wearing their rival's school colors downright vile. But for all of the disdain off the court, there's generally a level of respect when it comes to the players and the coaches on the court.
But that's not the case with the Indiana-Illinois basketball rivalry.
At least not in the case of Illini coach Bruce Weber.
As Tom Crean's basketball team journeys to Champaign, Ill., today for Saturday afternoon's Big Ten match-up with the Illini, IU fans should be comforted by the fact IU doesn't have a puppy as a mascot. After all, Weber might just do his best Austin Starr impersonation and kick it if it ventured near the Illini bench tomorrow.
If one thing has been made clear over the last 2 ½ years, Weber doesn't like Indiana very much. Actually, he seems to consider the Hoosier program as his own personal axis of evil.
The roots of Weber's contempt are well chronicled. Former IU Coach Kelvin Sampson plucked the crown jewel of Weber's recruiting class – Eric Gordon - in October of 2006. Weber clearly found Sampson's decision to recruit Gordon loathsome, and he found the consequences painful as he suffered through a 16-19 season a year ago that had some Illini fans calling for his head.
Weber has since righted the ship, sprinting to a 13-2 start this season and assembling an impressive group of recruits for the next several classes. But he clearly hasn't lost his distaste for a Hoosier program that is seemingly devoid of all of the individuals that he held in such low esteem.
That was obvious last summer, when Weber was speaking in front of a group of Illini loyalists in Peoria. Those in attendance were interested in knowing just how much improvement they could expect from a team that finished ninth in the conference standings. Weber wasn't ready to peg his team as a favorite, but he was more than willing to label the Hoosiers as a doormat.
"The league should be wide open and we can be right in the middle of it," Weber said. "I do know one thing, though. I think Indiana will suck. Don't put that on the Internet."
Much to Weber's chagrin, his comment surfaced in blogs and message boards in a matter of hours, and it's come to the forefront again now that the two teams are set to meet Saturday at 3 p.m. While Weber's less-than-cordial handshakes with Sampson the last two years revealed nothing more than a personal dislike for the Hoosiers' former coach, this summer's statement suggests a disgust for the IU program as a whole.
Considering those feelings, Saturday's game should be a rewarding one for Weber, who has lost three out of five to Sampson and both of his games against Gordon. Indiana's fledgling basketball team has played only three true road games this season, and the atmosphere in Champaign figures to be the most raucous of them all.
But if the Illini do somehow stumble or even struggle on Saturday against the Hoosiers, Weber will certainly have a lot of explaining to do.
Not to Indiana fans, mind you. They know exactly how he feels about the Hoosier program.
The explanation would be owed to his own fans. While other coaches have generally applauded the Hoosiers' effort this season and have said you can never take a Big Ten team lightly, Weber has made it clear what he thinks of this Indiana team and the Indiana program.
If Weber's team struggles Saturday, it would certainly suck to be him.
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DECKER: There's No Love Lost For Weber
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