Feats of Strength

The Crosstown Shootout has always been rough

L

ike most great sports rivalries, the magnitude of the Crosstown Shootout is built upon decades of animosity. Long before Xavier constructed its state-of-the-art arena and grew its brand of “mid-major” college hoops into an inimitable NCAA Tournament-worthy program, the small school three miles up the road from the University of Cincinnati has been scrapping with the big boys from Clifton.Literally.

The ugly brawl that marred the end of the 2011 Crosstown Shootout still looms over the annual affair, which dates back to 1928 and has been played every year since 1946. Amid their early dominance of the Musketeers, the Bearcats won two National Titles, only to see Xavier push back during the past two decades, winning local bragging rights 13 out of the past 19 years — including twice taking down No.1-ranked UC teams.

Both schools have plenty to be proud of in recent years — UC has reached the NCAA Tournament five straight seasons after a monumental rebuilding effort by head coach

Mick Cronin, and Xavier is one of only nine schools to make five or more Sweet 16

appearances since 2008. Nevertheless, the fisticuffs America witnessed on the Cintas

Center floor four years ago continues to overshadow the success both schools have found outside the annual rivalry game. While university officials — and time — have

attempted to distance the schools’ image from what a national audience witnessed that fateful November day in 2011, the brawl was actually just the latest in a long history of extracurriculars between the two schools.

In fact, similar scuffles have been celebrated by local media in the past. 

A 2004 Cincinnati Enquirer online poll titled “Choose the Crosstown Shootout’s most memorable moment” included four instances where players threw punches or all-out brawled during games in 1964, 1967, 1985 and 1988. Looking back at such glorification of the game’s “passion,” who can blame Yancy Gates for wildly throwing haymakers as his team trailed the No. 8-ranked Musketeers by 23 points. One of Xavier’s players threw a crutch at a UC player in 1967, and someone in the stands reportedly threw a wine bottle at Oscar Robertson in 1958.

Aren’t things about equal at this point?

Let us not forget Bob Huggins’ infamous refusal to shake Xavier head coach Pete Gillen’s hand after the Musketeers’ 1994 win. Or in 2002, when UC’s Jason Maxiell called Xavier’s David West “soft,” only to have West ominously respond, “Be careful what you wish for.” Xavier won the game 50-44. After two years of operating under the overly PC “Crosstown Showdown” moniker and playing off-campus, the Shootout returned to UC last year, going to overtime and resulting in yet another Xavier victory. Both schools went on to earn spots in the NCAA Tournament, with UC winning a first-round game and Xavier making the Sweet 16.

As we look ahead to this year’s Crosstown Shootout — likely a clash between two nationally ranked teams — we mustn’t focus on transgressions of the past. Instead, this holiday season, we should appreciate the fact that one of college basketball’s greatest rivalries remains intact not just in spite of, but in part because of, its rough history. ©

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