Fan Friction: Indiana’s Epic Rivalry
Indiana basketball’s defining rivalry rekindles twice in February with two new episodes of a series Purdue currently leads by a reasonably commanding 115–89. Aaaand you know where this is going: That’s where IU people say “banners,” and Purdue people say “dusty,” and IU people mention how Purdue’s dominance was mostly before color movies, and Purdue people observe that the schools are dead even with 22 regular-season Big Ten titles each, and IU people bring up Gene Keady’s $600 comb-over, and Purdue people note how none of their coaches have ever been fired for forcefully scolding a 19-year-old. Here’s what got (and kept) the ball rolling:
In 1901, Purdue claims the inaugural battle by the epic score of … uh, 23–19.
Listen, they hadn’t invented jump shots yet.
In the final game of the 1979 NIT, Purdue’s Jerry Sichting uncharacteristically misses a corner buzzer-beater to leave IU a 53–52 win.
The entire Marv Albert–helmed broadcast, in all its VHS glory, is on YouTube, because of course it is.
1981: The Knight vs. Keady era dawns.
“Knight built up a real dislike for Keady because Gene committed the cardinal sin of beating him,” says John Feinstein, author of A Season on the Brink. Nah, says Keady. “We were good friends, and we still call each other once in a while.”
The rivalry heats up January 31, 1981, when Isiah Thomas gets into fisticuffs with Roosevelt Barnes and Keady is T’d up twice.
“Bob grabbed a ref and moved him out of the way, so I grabbed the same ref and said, ‘You can’t have a coach do that, I don’t care who he is!’” Keady says. “That was a T. Then I said, ‘If you were in Kansas, my uncles would have shot you both.’ Another T. Bob comes over and says, ‘Coach, you gotta settle down.’ I said, ‘I beg your pardon?’”
The donkey episode.
Upon his visit to West Lafayette a month later, Knight complains that the Purdue student section yelled mean stuff at him and his wife, so he invites Purdue athletic director George King on his weekly TV show. When King declines, Knight does the only logical thing: produces a donkey in a Purdue hat.
In 1985, Knight tries to murder a chair.
Replays will be shown every year at Mackey long after we are all dead and buried.
The 1988 Boilers suffer a beast of a loss.
Purdue blazes to a spiffy 16–2 record with possibly its best-ever squad. But one of those Ls was a heartbreaker: an 82–79 Bloomington defeat that probably cost the Boilers a No. 1 ranking.
Knight delivers a motivational lesson during a secretly recorded speech/unhinged rant at a 1991 practice.
As 1.83 million (and counting) YouTube viewers know, The General shrieks, “I’M F**KING TIRED OF LOSING TO PURDUE” some 900 times. Inspired and/or fearful for their lives, the Hoosiers win in West Lafayette, 65–62.
The mid-’90s are good to Purdue.
En route to its third straight Big Ten championship in 1996, Purdue wins 74–72 in Bloomington, igniting an on-court celebration that sees Porter Roberts drop-kick a ball at the scoreboard and Todd Foster stomp around like Mario on the IU logo.
In February 2008, in the last game before the phone-call investigation that would sink Kelvin Sampson and the program, the Eric Gordon–led Hoosiers land a 77–68 win that ushers in the Painter/Crean era.
“I’m proud of Matt for the way he’s doing this,” says Keady. The rivalry, Crean has said, “transcends players and coaches.”