Big Four Classic a success but emotions remain

Drake, UNI preferred home-and-home arrangement

Drake's Chris Hines (4) collects a loose ball in front of Iowa State's Anthony Booker (22) during their game in the Big Four Classic Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. (Brian Ray/The Gazette-KCRG)
Drake's Chris Hines (4) collects a loose ball in front of Iowa State's Anthony Booker (22) during their game in the Big Four Classic Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. (Brian Ray/The Gazette-KCRG)

DES MOINES -- Drake and Iowa State boast one of the oldest rivalries west of the Mississippi River, playing one another for 104 of the last 105 seasons.

Iowa State beat Drake 86-77 on Saturday at Wells Fargo Arena as part of the inaugural Big Four Classic, a showcase event in downtown Des Moines for the state's four men's basketball programs.

But next year, Drake and Iowa State are not scheduled to meet in either Des Moines or Ames. They aren't scheduled to play again until 2014 when that match-up rotates back on the Big Four Classic. Next year Drake will play Iowa and Iowa State will face Northern Iowa at Wells Fargo Arena.

Of all the series interrupted by the newly created Big Four Classic, Drake-Iowa State is with the most history and the most to lose. But Drake Athletics Director Sandy Hatfield Clubb said there's little chance for Iowa State and Drake to play next year.

"Not unless they want to play on our court," Hatfield Clubb said. "We had to give up playing on our court, and I don’t know why we’d turn around. They gave up the history, we didn’t.

"We would obviously have preferred playing both Iowa and Iowa State on our court. As a second option, this was a great event (Saturday)."

Iowa and Iowa State declined to renew basketball contracts with Drake and Northern Iowa after the in-state schools had played one another almost every season (ISU and UNI didn't play two years in the mid-1990s) since 1988. Iowa and Iowa State wanted to end the traditional home-and-home series with their Missouri Valley Conference competitors and move it to a one-day event in Des Moines. The change remains a sore spot for both Drake and Northern Iowa, which enjoyed hosting either Iowa or Iowa State every season.

"We still offered to do this kind of schedule on our home court, do a home-and-home with one, and then home-and-home with the other so we could maintain playing them on home courts," Hatfield Clubb said. "But they weren’t willing to do that."

"I would venture to guess that all four of us would like to have a home game as opposed to a neutral-site game," UNI Coach Ben Jacobson said. "Absolutely I’d like to play at the McLeod Center. No question. I think (Iowa Coach) Fran (McCaffery) would say the same thing. Having a home game and being in your own building, there’s nothing like that. But this is good day of basketball for the state."

Logistics have changed for the larger schools. The Big Ten and Big 12 recently expanded their conference schedules from 16 to 18 games, and both Iowa and Iowa State play at least one high-profile opponent outside their league. Iowa and Iowa State continue to meet one another as part of the annual Cy-Hawk series. As MVC teams, Drake and Northern Iowa play twice annually.

The Big Four Classic has a four-year contract through 2015. The schools share expenses and profits. More than 13,000 tickets were sold to the inaugural, which pleased both Hatfield Clubb and Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta.

"I can’t speak for the other three, but I think all of us would say for year one, we’d consider that a success," Barta said.

Iowa and Iowa State pay several opponents each year to compete at their arenas. None of the in-state schools have discussed a future pay-to-play scenario at either Hilton Coliseum or Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

"We haven’t talked about anything beyond continuing the home-and-home with Iowa State and then this event on an annual basis," Barta said.

Iowa State now leads the all-time series with its neighbor 30 miles south 107-65. While the schools remain divided about the in-state series, Hatfield Clubb and her counterparts enjoyed Saturday's event.

"It’s unfortunate, but again, a great event," she said. "We’re looking forward, not backward."


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