Iowa Men's Basketball

Prime Time League is no more, Hy-Vee Classic soon to follow

Iowa cites expanded Big Ten schedule for demise of Des Moines event

Prime Time League action at the North Liberty Recreation Center. (The Gazette)
Prime Time League action at the North Liberty Recreation Center. (The Gazette)

Thursday was a day for basketball endings in Iowa.

The Prime Time League, a nonprofit organization founded and overseen by Iowa City’s Randy Larson since 1987, was disbanded Thursday. It had been scheduled to start another season next Wednesday in North Liberty.

Meanwhile, the University of Iowa announced Thursday that this will be the final year of the Hy-Vee Classic in Des Moines. The one-day men’s basketball doubleheader in Wells Fargo Arena, which began in 2012 after Iowa and Iowa State opted to not play both Drake and Northern Iowa every season, featured the four Division I programs from Iowa.

Now, it’s unknown if the Hawkeyes and Cyclones will play the Bulldogs and Panthers at all after this season.

Regarding the PTL

Larson said “With the opportunity created by an NCAA rule change to have four hours of practice together each week in the summer, and another four hours of individual skill work with the players, there just isn’t a need for it.

“Between summer school classes and homework, strength and conditioning workouts, and now 8 hours of either practice or skill drills, the coaches at Iowa and UNI concluded that their players were just being asked to do too much. They correctly wanted the summer to still be the offseason, albeit one with much more development than it used to have when coaches didn’t get to help the players improve.”

“I completely agree with that view.”

Iowa Coach Fran McCaffery and UNI Coach Ben Jacobson both issued statements praising Larson and showing appreciation for the league.

“This joint decision is a reflection of the recent changes to the student-athletes’ time demands over the summer with the additional strength and conditioning and skill development sessions, as well as summer school classes,” McCaffery said.

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“(Larson) and Fran were willing to play some games the past few years at the SportsPlex in Waterloo,” said Jacobson. “That decision meant a lot to me, our players, fans and our program.”

As for the Hy-Vee Classic

The view of its demise is considerably different at Northern Iowa than Iowa.

“We are extremely disappointed that the Big Four Classic is ending following this year’s event,” said UNI Athletic Director David Harris. “This event has provided a tremendous opportunity for the fans of basketball in the state of Iowa to see all four teams compete in one building on the same day. The Big Four Classic was played in a great venue in a centralized area of the state to help generate a fantastic basketball experience in Iowa.

“Nonconference scheduling has been very challenging for us based on the success that we have enjoyed in recent years. Our focus moving forward will be on exploring other options in order to continue to have an attractive and competitive non-conference schedule for our program and our fans.”

Iowa views it through a different prism.

“In our last agreement we added language that provided each institution an opportunity to opt out of the remainder of the contract if they reached 22 required games by the conference,” said Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta. “The addition of two conference games is good for our fans, the Big Ten Conference and our strength of schedule, but unfortunately it created some scheduling challenges that impacts this event.”

The 22 games refers to a 20-game conference schedule and single games in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and Gavitt Games, a series featuring Big Ten and Big East games.

“As we have in the past,” Barta said, “the Hawkeyes will continue to evaluate playing in-state schools on a sport-by-sport, case-by-case basis.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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