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.