Crossroads Classic pleases fans, but long-term future uncertain

The two-year trial of the Crossroads Classic doubleheader college basketball event is receiving positive reviews from fans statewide, especially after nail-biting games like Saturday's overtime contest between the Indiana Hoosiers and Butler Bulldogs.

Earlier this year, the four participating universities—IU, Purdue, Notre Dame and Butler—agreed to a two-year extension to hold the event through 2014 at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis.

But there are still scheduling concerns to be worked out if the fledgling event is to become a long-term college basketball tradition.

Butler, for instance, is in its first year in the Atlantic 10 Conference, and its future in the league is less than certain. A new conference still in the formative stages that  includes seven Big East schools reportedly is considering inviting Butler to join, and it is uncertain what these changes will mean to the school’s non-conference schedule.
The expansion of the Big Ten Conference, of which IU and Purdue are members, could affect those schools’ non-conference schedules and their availability for future Crossroads Classics.

Officials for Notre Dame said scheduling challenges have little to do with its non-conference schedule or its leap from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“Some years, it could become tricky with final [exams],” said Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick. “It’s more an issue with our academic schedule than our athletic schedule.”

While Swarbrick said Notre Dame is committed to making the event work, he said thinking too long-term is difficult.

“As volatile as the college athletics landscape is right now, it’s difficult to look too far out,” he said. “Two-year timelines in college athletics right now are long ones.”

Challenges aside, Swarbrick said the event has become “a great celebration of basketball in the state of Indiana,” and he’s hopeful it can continue beyond 2014.

“Everything about this event has been positive,” he said.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t need tweaking. One needed change, Swarbrick said, is that IU needs to play in the second game of the doubleheader.

“That’s one thing we learned this year,” Swarbrick said.

After Butler nipped IU in overtime of Saturday’s doubleheader, several thousand people left the fieldhouse before or during the early part of Notre Dame's victory over Purdue.

“More often than not, Indiana’s going to have the biggest following,” Swarbrick said.

Purdue Athletic Director Morgan Burke, who is credited for starting the event, said he's hopeful the doubleheader can become “a holiday tradition,” but said it needs to be re-evaluated on an annual basis.

“The feedback from our student-athletes, coaching staff and fans has been positive, and we think this is great event,” Burke said. “We will critique the event as we did last year … to see what we can do to improve and what we want to ensure we maintain.”

Unlike many NCAA Division I college basketball events, the Crossroads Classic is not organized by a third party. Instead, the four participating schools decided to rotate hosting duties and evenly split expenses and revenue. Pacers Sports & Entertainment oversees operations at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the event.

A sellout crowd of more than 18,500 fans witnessed the inaugural Crossroads Classic in 2011, as Butler defeated Purdue and IU beat Notre Dame. This year’s Classic also was a sellout.

Next year’s doubleheader is scheduled for Dec. 14.


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