Momentum is building in Ohio for a college basketball event similar to Indiana’s Crossroads Classic, which features the top four Division I teams in the Hoosier State.
Dayton Athletic Director Neil Sullivan confirmed Saturday, after a 79-61 exhibition victory against Ohio Dominican, his program would not only be interested in such an event but that he has made contact already with the three other schools that might be involved: Ohio State, Xavier and Cincinnati.
“We’ve talked,” Sullivan said. “There’s a lot of logistics to it. It’s not the first time we’ve talked about it. We’ve talked about it a lot over the years. It seemed to peak there a little bit. A couple of the coaches made some comments, so that’s a door I’ll certainly run through.”
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Dayton Flyers coach Anthony Grant, who faces Ball State at 7 p.m. Friday in his first game, also said his program would be open to playing in such an event.
“Whatever makes sense for our program — where we are in terms of what we’re trying to do — we’re open to all opportunities,” Grant said.
Ohio State’s hiring of Chris Holtmann sparked renewed interest in the games. On Oct. 3, his program announced it will start a two-game series against the Cincinnati Bearcats with a game at Fifth Third Arena in 2018 and a game at Ohio State in 2019. That’s a big change in scheduling philosophy because the teams have not played in the regular season — outside of a 2006 matchup on a neutral court in Indianapolis — since 1921.
Holtmann also has spoke out several times in support of an event featuring Ohio State, Dayton, Cincinnati and Xavier, while conceding it would take a couple of years to get an event like that started.
“I think the reality is you have other programs in the state that have been really high-achieving programs,” Holtmann told Ohio State’s student newspaper, The Lantern, in October. “I get why we haven’t played some of those schools in the past, but I also recognize that, I think perhaps if those programs were really struggling programs that wouldn’t be as beneficial for us. I don’t think that’d be in Ohio State’s best interest, but they’re programs that have had success and makes it mutually beneficial.”
Holtmann was involved in the Crossroads Classic for three seasons as the head coach at Butler. Indiana, Notre Dame, Purdue and Butler play in the annual event.
Purdue and Indiana don’t play in the Crossroads Classic because they are Big Ten opponents. It likely would be a similar situation with Cincinnati and Xavier if the four Ohio teams play on an annual basis because they would want to keep their annual rivalry game separate.
“We would certainly entertain playing Dayton or Ohio State every other year,” Mack told the Cincinnati Enquirer in October.
That would mean Dayton could play Cincinnati or Xavier on an annual basis but not Ohio State. The Buckeyes would also rotate games between Cincinnati and Xavier.
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Picking the dates and the sites of the games — perhaps rotating them between Dayton, Cincinnati and Columbus — would be the bigger challenge.
“You need to put everyone’s heads together to find a way it could potentially happen,” Sullivan said. “I don’t want to get too far ahead of it because we’ve been down this road before on a couple of these things, but any chance there’s daylight, we’ll run toward it and see what we can do. It’s just a matter of moving the pieces of the puzzle, but if there’s genuine interest from all four schools we’ve got to be smart enough to figure it out.”