Indiana revives Hoosier Classic

Most of us are too young to remember the original Hoosier Classic. Some of us are too young to know that the Hoosier Classic even existed. But it did, and it was awesome. And now it's coming back.

What was the Hoosier Classic, exactly? It was a two-game nonconference showcase that pit Indiana's big four hoops teams -- Indiana, Butler, Notre Dame and Purdue -- in a doubleheader at the Hinkle Fieldhouse. It dates to the 1940s and legendary Butler coach Tony Hinkle.

Considering the provincial context of Indiana basketball, this was a very cool idea in the 1940s, and it remains a cool idea now. Which is why the four schools are in discussions to revive the idea. According to Indy Star writer David Woods, there are still plenty of details to hammer out, but he's being told the doubleheader will happen. (Update: Our own Andy Katz confirmed this with Notre Dame coach Mike Brey in his Daily Word Monday.) The games would take place December 2011 and December 2012.

One caveat involves the pairing of Purdue and Indiana. The two schools won't play a nonconference conference game, so Butler and Notre Dame will always face one of the two. Other than that, it's a pretty straightforward deal, and when you remember the 30,000-strong crowd Butler sent to the Final Four open practices this past April, it's not hard to imagine the Conseco Fieldhouse buzzing with similar fervor. It's exciting.

In a way, that's what's interesting about this new version of the Hoosier Classic (and there's a good chance it will have a different name): the way the college hoops power dynamic in Indiana has changed. Back in the day, Indiana could dictate terms of the tournament; the school even left the showcase and was replaced by Illinois in the 1960s. These days, Butler is the state's undeniable power, with Purdue just behind, Notre Dame trailing a little further off and Indiana well behind all three. Those teams will actually benefit from playing Butler in a preseason nonconference game.

Those fans old enough to remember the classic days of the Hoosier Classic can testify to just how different this modern arrangement will be.