This past Saturday was an annual tradition here in Cincinnati: The Skyline Chili Crosstown Shootout, where the University of Cincinnati Bearcats take on the Xavier University Musketeers. It is the one day in Cincinnati where is safe to wear a Kentucky Wildcats sweatshirt north of the Ohio River. I once watched the game at a bar in a Cleveland Browns T-Shirt. (Not nearly as dangerous during the Bengals’ second Lost Decade.)
When I first moved to Cincinnati in 1991, UC went to the Final Four for the first time in over twenty years under bombastic coach Bob Huggins (a man who onced yelled at me during a Walsh High School track meet.)
Back then, I’d never heard of Xavier. Well, actually, I did. It was this famous Catholic college in New Orleans. Whenever ESPN mentioned the local Xavier University (which they rarely did), it was always “Xavier (OH).”
I couldn’t tell you what conferences they were in. I know UC was in Conference USA for several years. Now?
ESPN refers that other school as Xavier (LA) now. In fact, they rarely mention them. Xavier (OH) now dominates the Atlantic 10. Bob Huggins is gone, now coaching his alma mater at West Virginia. Skip Prosser, who turned Xavier from “the other Xavier” and “that other school in Cincinnati,” is really gone, having passed away last year after coaching Wake Forest for several years.
UC is now coached by Huggins protege Mick Cronin, whose tenure has been… Well, they Bearcats were 8-1, so let’s forget the recent past, shall we? Xavier has done well under Sean Miller, who brought the team in undefeated for 2008-2009. So who won?
Never mind that. Let me tell you what the fans thought. First, there is my wife, Nita, a UC alum and Bearcat fan. She says…
“The Crosstown Shoot out is like a holiday around here – like the Hannunkah and Christmas…..you are UC or Xavier…
Of course, UC is the best. We are the chosen few. Go UC!”
Xavier fans have a slightly different take. I asked Melanie Wissel, a Xavier grad and one of my BigHugeCo coworkers, what she thought of the game.
“ I’ve attended almost ten Crosstown Shootout games, all but one at Xavier’s court. These games are very exciting, and there is a lot of energy among fans from both schools. The TV does not capture all of the energy. I remember when my husband attended his first Crosstown Shootout. He was amazed by all of this.
I know many people will say that this game is not important because the schools are in different leagues, but it is still very exciting. Plus, bragging rights will always carry weight among many fans. I notice that UC fans will always claim that the game doesn’t matter during the years that XU wins, but they never seem to mention that when UC wins. ; ) UC does lead this series overall (47-28), but XU has won 8 of the last 12 games.
Two of the games I attended as a student at XU. I remember sitting in line for hours with books and blankets to make sure I got a ticket. The XU students got very excited about the game.
Several people have mentioned that perhaps this game should be moved to a neutral court (specifically the US Bank Arena). The argument is that more people could see it. I think this would be a big mistake. Having this game on the respective college campuses really adds to the atmosphere. I really think some of it would be lost if it was held elsewhere. Also, I think season ticket holders (such as myself) from both schools could feel ripped off by such a move.
I will be going to the game on Saturday even though it’s at UC. XU is currently undefeated this season (8-0), and I think they can win. However, strange things have happened in the past. With the Crosstown Shootout, all stats should probably be thrown out the window. There have been times when XU was having a better season, but UC won the game. Also, XU has beaten UC twice in the past 15 years when UC was ranked as the #1 team in the country.
And the final score of what now truly is a Clash of the NCAA Titans?
Xavier 76, Cincinnati 66, with a record number of technical fouls. Yes, much smack was talked this cold December night in Fifth Third Arena.
Maybe soon I will talk about the most important aspect of the Crosstown Shootout: The Sponsor.