Tourney would have been different in Knight, Keady era

March 14, 2011
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Just a question to ponder on an overcast Monday: How much would the presence of Bob Knight and Gene Keady help the Big Ten tournament?

I’m not here to start a bring back Bob Knight campaign. But I have to wonder what the economic impact would be if Indiana and Purdue were back in their glory days with The General and Keady’s Kids making constant college basketball headlines (the good kind). And I’m not saying Purdue isn’t good now. Of course, they are.

But imagine this scenario; The Knight-led Hoosiers and Keady-led Purdue split their regular-season match-up and both sit atop or near the top of the Big Ten standings, then meet for the Big Ten tournament championship. You’d have to move the rubber match to Lucas Oil Stadium.

Remember, it wasn’t long ago that some of Knight’s best teams were playing in front of near sellout crowds at the RCA Dome.

The Big Ten tournament didn’t start until 1998, and though both teams had some solid years since then, they haven’t held the place of prominence they did in the decades preceding the start of the Big Ten tourney.

Direct visitor spending for this year’s men’s Big Ten tournament is estimated at $8 million. And that’s a nice piece of business for Indianapolis. Downtown hotel rooms were virtually sold out for three straight nights. Attendance was 86,767 for the four-day tournament this year, the highest since pre-recession 2006.

But if IU had the power and cache that it once did under Knight, and the likes of Keady, Lou Doo and other colorful characters of yesteryear were still prominent in the Big Ten, Indianapolis would likely see attendance and economic impact much, much larger.

  • Duh
    I don't think you have to have the programs "back in their glory days," but tourney attendance would obviously be better if IU and Purdue were both Top 25 programs. Purdue seems to be there, but they had to choke and bow out early. A Purdue-Ohio State finale yesterday would've been a sure sellout.
  • Since most of the games were sellouts, and the final was only short by a couple of 100, I am not sure you could do much better at the current venue.

    In the same vein, if Purdue and IU made the finals, spending would probably be down. No need for as many hotel rooms, and fewer people needing to eat all of their meals out and going shopping and visiting attractions.

    Just like a Purdue/Butler final game last year would have hurt Indy in spending, an IU/Purdue B10 final would have hurt spending. It is arguable that Purdue losing early actually helped downtown spending.

    Since several games were sellouts and the rest close, is there any talk of moving the B10 Tourney to Lucas Oil? It would allow us to compete against the United Center which seems to be our biggest negative.
  • move to bigger venue
    Indyman, you make some solid points. But I still think there were more marquee names and teams in the conference back a decade or more ago. Imagine if there had been a Big Ten tournament featuring Glenn Robinson, Michigan's Fab Five and an IU team led by Calbert Cheaney, Alan Henderson, etc. I think arguably, you would have to consider moving the games to LOS, and that would be excellent for the Big Ten. And the TV ratings would be through the roof. Remember, the Big Ten makes most of its money off ticket revenue and the TV contract, and attendance is the main driver of those things. Hotel and restaurant revenue are what drives economic impact to the city, and I suppose you could argue that deep tourney runs by both those teams in an Indy location could hurt the tournament in some respects. But overall, I think there would be a big benefit of having high octane IU and Purdue teams in the tourney. Thanks as always for reading.
  • Painter has said so
    Anthony...your point has been made by none other than Matt Painter on a number of occasions...he has said for the Big Ten's sake, and the state's sake, the rivalry needs to get back to that point. Indiana is on its way back finally, but it will most likely take two seasons for them to get all the way back, the improvement is obvious, and the blue chip in state athletes are signing on for the future...whether or not Crean and Painter can capture the imagination of the fans like Knight/Keady, that is more of a personality thing...Knight was much larger than life, perhaps the largest coach in life ever, and Keady was a feisty, firey, funny looking guy who would not back down...made for great rivalry. Crean is a rah rah guy, Painter is intense, but not like Keady, neither of them is on the surface like their predecessor. If the teams are on par with each other, and they will be, I think you might still need LOS to house it.
    One thing is for certain...Bobby never wanted to play the tournament in the first place...he always said the ultimate reward should be for the regular season Conference winner, and he abhorred the money grab that all the conferences made with these post season tourneys. And this conversation proves he was is a money grab, and a darn lucrative one at that.
    • Jim
      IU is on its way back??? C'mon, Jim, what fairy tale are you reading? They are only on their way back to losing.

      As an alumni and a Hoosier, I have to say I'm no longer a Hoosier fan. Far be it for an institution that wouldn't deal with Knight's issues and forced him to fail as if he'd never done anything for IU. These kinds of travesties are not easily forgotten or forgiven.

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