Monday, January 25, 1999

Shootout goes coast to coast

Nation will see UC-XU rivalry for first time

The Cincinnati Enquirer

[shootout map]
        The words Dick Vitale has not spoken about college basketball, Dick Weiss has written. Each man has traveled thousands of miles through dozens of years to experience and chronicle everything that makes the game special.

        Well, most everything.

        “I have not seen one,” said Weiss of the New York Daily News, a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame.

        “I've never seen one,” said Vitale of ESPN and ABC, the nation's most recognizable college basketball analyst.

        They are about to be initi ated to what previously was an exclusive club but now will be opened to the masses. Weiss and Vitale and anyone else outside this city with access to cable television will at last get the opportunity to see Xavier vs. Cincinnati in the Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout. The game will be shown live on ESPN at 9:30p.m. Thursday after years of being the exclusive property of local TV.

        “I think it's long overdue,” said Xavier coach Skip Prosser, who gets the sense people around the nation do not know much about the Shootout experience. “But they shouldn't know, because they have not seen it. I think until you see it and go through the week and all that, you can't really appreciate it.”

        Although it seems only fair to share this event with those not fortunate enough to live here, the Shootout is about to lose one of its most unique qualities, something that separates it not only from the rest of college basketball but the world of high-profile sports.

        It may be the last major event that remains unexposed to the national audience. What else is there that remains almost legend to the majority of the nation? The Iditarod, perhaps? Does that count?

        It is hard to believe there is anything the nation has not seen on television. The Ryder Cup has become a TV event within the past decade. All of the U.S. has been exposed to the entirety of the World Cup. Every college basketball matchup ESPN can conceive has been broadcast coast to coast, from Princeton vs. UAB to Temple vs. Fresno State.

        The networks did not invent the Shootout, though, and only now have UC and XU agreed to rearrange their party so that everyone outside the city may be invited.

        “With UC doing so well and Xavier getting their legs down,” CBS basketball analyst Bill Raftery said, “it's like, do that a few years in a row, and all of a sudden ... I think it will creep out of the Midwest.”

        Vitale calls the Shootout “a mini-version of Duke-Carolina.” He is not trying to be dismissive, though that's how it comes out. Especially when he considers the Shootout does not involve a league affiliation, and thus decides it is more of a “mini-version of Louisville-Kentucky.”

        Kentucky-Louisville is a great series, but it does not have the history of the Shootout. Those two have played only 29 times, which is 49 fewer than the Cardinals have played UC.

        There is a similar geographic proximity at work with Duke and North Carolina, although they do not share the same city's borders. Obviously, their combined five national titles and 25 Final Fours far exceeds the two national titles and six Final Fours for UC and Xavier (all of them by UC).

        The fact Duke and North Carolina occupy the same conference, though, dictates they play twice a year. Thus have there been occasions, including three since 1988, when neither could claim an entire year's bragging rights. Sometimes, the winner of the first game can enjoy it only a few weeks.

        Philadelphia's Big Five has similarities, and used to have the Shootout trumped on the basis of being a five-way hatefest among Temple, St. Joseph's, Villanova, Penn and LaSalle. But the decision in the mid-1980s to deemphasize the City Series has cut the number of games the teams play against one another. ESPN did not include a single Big Five game in its “Rivalry Week” series.

        “I've seen enough Big Five games to know the intensity involved in this,” Weiss said. “Back in the '60s and 70s, it was more important to win the Big Five than it was to win the league. Philadelphia's the only other place that could rival this.”

        UC coach Bob Huggins does not view the expansion of the Shootout audience as a significant boost for his program. The Bearcats are on national TV 12 other times this season.

        But this is not UC-South Florida. There will be no empty seats in the gym, as there were for a UC game ESPN televised from UNLV. The atmosphere generated may intrigue recruits and captivate fans across the country.

        And, those who have committed to play for the two schools — such as New York guard Kenny Satterfield, who is headed to UC, and guard David Young of New Castle, Pa., who will play at Xavier — will gain some understanding of what it means to compete in the Crosstown Shootout.

        “I really didn't know what it was about until I got here and witnessed that week of practice, and how the atmosphere was around school, how serious everybody was in the city,” said UC senior guard Melvin Levett, whose freshman year was 1995-96.

        “I got out there and had the opportunity to get nine seconds, and it felt kind of good,” he said. “From then on, I knew how important it was. It's a great game.”

Shootout goes coast to coast
ESPN disregards Xavier and UC fans John Fay column
Let's get ready to ... hype Jan. 24, 1999
Shootout 'bigger than the calendar' Jan. 24, 1999
Crosstown highlights Jan. 24, 1999