Xavier-Cincinnati rivalry in limbo

CINCINNATI -- Xavier and Cincinnati want to keep their annual basketball rivalry, but school officials haven't decided whether to play at a neutral site or return to campus after a brawl nearly sidelined the series.

Cincinnati athletic director Whit Babcock said in an interview Tuesday that the schools want to maintain the annual game, which is one of the city's sports highlights.

There was talk about ending the rivalry two years ago after a brawl erupted with 9.4 seconds left on Xavier's court. Four players from each team were suspended and video replays of the punching and shoving received national attention.

The game had alternated campuses each year, but it was moved to a downtown arena for two seasons after the brawl. Cincinnati won 60-45 last year in a game that was amicable. The schools will see how the game goes on Dec. 14 before deciding the site.

"Long-term, what we've talked about is certainly continuing to play the game," Babcock said. "Neither one of us has a desire to end that series.

"The big question is where the heck are you going to play, and that we haven't ironed out. We've left it at, `Hey, we want to see how this second year goes down there."

Babcock said the schools' presidents and trustees will be involved in the decision. The campuses are separated by only 2½ miles, and they've played each other 80 times.

The 2011 game on Xavier's court was called after the fight erupted with the Musketeers ahead 76-53. Last year, there were no hostilities or technical fouls in the first year at a downtown arena that seats 16,264. The crowd of 14,528 was nearly equally divided between Xavier and Cincinnati fans.

Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said he liked how the atmosphere at the downtown arena was much less acrimonious on a neutral site. Xavier coach Chris Mack has said he'd like to see the game return to the campuses at some point.

"At the end of the day it's just a game, but it's a pretty darn important one for this city," Babcock said. "Right now we've just said, `Hey, in general we want to keep playing. We want to see the game this year and then we'll sit down and talk."


Follow Joe Kay on Twitter: http://twitter.com/apjoekay