December 21, 2014

UNI coach, athletic director say Big Four Tourney not best option for them

U.N.I. athletic director Troy Dannen says he would have preferred to see the Big Four basketball series continue on a home and home basis. Beginning next season the teams will instead meet every other year in the “Big Four Classic,” which will be played each December at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

That means U.N.I. and Drake will no longer have a guaranteed home game with Iowa or Iowa State each season. “What we wanted was what we had…at the same time I recognize those are extraordinarily rare events, we’ve been very fortunate for a long period of time. If we didn’t have it, people would think this event is a great thing,” Dannen says.

Dannen says there’s no reason to believe the “Big Four Classic” won’t be a terrific event for all involved, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a “step backward” for U.N.I. He says everything about the event can be good, “But the price that we had to pay to get to it is exceedingly high from U.N.I’s and I’m sure from Drake’s standpoint.”

Dannen says that he can understand why Iowa and Iowa State would want to make a change and he does not believe that they were motivated by competitive issues. “Looking at it with my head and not my U.N.I. heart I understand,” Dannen says. He says though that both the Cyclones and Hawkeyes are getting better, so he doesn’t believe competitive issues are at the forefront of the issue.

Panther coach Ben Jacobson echoed Dannen’s thoughts about the Big Four event not being U.N.I.’s first choice. Jacobson says this is the next best option to playing the home-and-home series, but he says it was not going to continue that way and they had to advance to something that wasn’t their first choice.

Jacobson says there would have been a lot of tradition behind keeping the series the way they were. Many Iowa and Iowa State fans make the claim that few other BCS-level schools play home-and-home series with one, much less two, mid-major programs. But Jacobson says that with just four Division One teams in Iowa, it makes sense for them all to play each other every year.

The inaugural Big Four Classic has been scheduled for December 15. Iowa will play U.N.I. in one game, while Iowa State will face Drake in the other.

By Jesse Gavin, KCNZ, Cedar Falls