OSU-UC: A Non-Rivalry In The Making

After 44 years, Cincinnati and Ohio State finally met once again. Hoping to see the two make this game an annual clash? Don't make plans just yet. According to both head coaches, it doesn't appear the two will play again in the near future.

Unless you were living in a cave this week, you can probably recall how long it's been since the last time Ohio State and Cincinnati had played one another in basketball. In case you were hibernating for the rest of this unseasonable winter or you've just plain forgotten, it was 44 years.

That's four decades plus four years. It was 1962 when the Bearcats and Buckeyes last met.

Seperated by 100 miles, it was ironic that the two teams had to venture to a neighboring state Saturday afternoon to break the long drought. The 72-50 Ohio State victory at the Wooden Tradition in Indianapolis was the first regular season meeting since 1921.

Since their last meeting, won by Cincinnati in the National Championship game 71-59 in 1962, much has changed. The Bearcats have been through six coaches, including Ed Jucker the man that got them their last National Title and have made a Final Four appearance.

Ohio State, meanwhile, has been through five coaches including Fred Taylor and also made a Final Four appearance - excluding one consequently taken down because of NCAA sanctions.

Coaches have come and gone. Politicians have playfully chided the universities for their conspicous distance. Reasons have come and gone for the institutions maintaining their basketball independence, mostly from the Ohio State side of things over the last 10-15 seasons.

But alas, the release of the 2006-07 schedule revealed the renewal of a series that never really was.

"It's funny - I don't know who said it but it's hard to call it a rivalry game when you haven't played in forty years" noted Ohio State head basketball coach Thad Matta.

For Buckeye and Bearcat fans long awaiting this small step for man, one game was going in the right direction. Matta and OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith had made comments in the past that indicated Ohio State was interested in creating a routine series.

But those same fans clamoring for that giant leap for mankind were dealt a significant blow when Matta suggested this past week that perhaps a Cincinnati-Ohio State rivalry was not necessarily in the cards.

"I'm not going to beat a dead horse. From the comments the last couple of days (from Matta), they (Ohio State) have made it clear they're not interested," said UC head coach Mick Cronin after his team lost to Ohio State Saturday. "They caught us while we're down."

With the latest entry going fresh for the presses of the non-rivalry, rivalry, Matta was given a chance to become an intrastate hero of sorts.

From his tone, who's to say it won't be another 44 years until the two teams play one another again?

"I think you have to be careful of the quote en quote rivalry games," he said. "I don't know, maybe in time."

Cincinnati, 7-3 after Saturday's loss, caught the Buckeyes at a bad time.

With the Bearcats having barely half a roster full of scholarship players, Cronin was able to get the game longtime Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins always wanted. But the game wasn't scheduled under Cronin's watch.

The loss to the No. 4 Buckeyes may not have stung as much if it happened any other season beyond their transition period from Huggins to interim head coach Andy Kennedy to Cronin.

Cronin called the timing into question.

"I think that's a question you have to ask yourself," he said. "Why did they elect to schedule the game at this time?

"I know from Coach (Tony) Yates to Coach (Ed) Badger to Coach Huggins, the overtures have been going on for years," Cronin added. "I've made mine. If they don't want to play that's fine."

Would Ohio State have played Cincinnati with a full compliment of players?

"I don't know," Matta responded. "I don't even know who scheduled the game. I think the Wooden Tradition called us and asked us if we had an interest in playing Cincinnati on CBS. I think they jumped at it just like we did. This was good for us to bring Michael and Greg home. Nobody was feeling sorry for me when I got to Ohio State."

It might not be 44 years until they play again.

But for now, it appears the ball is in Matta's court - at least according to Cronin.

"I've left it in (Cincinnati Athletic Director) Mike Thomas's hands to make overtures," he said. "If they don't want to play, OK."

So the question is - what's stopping it this time? Is it philisophical scheduling differences? Personal issues between the two coaches? Different goals and ambitions? Or is it a combination of all of the above?

Hopefully it won't take another 44 years to speculate.

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