In case you missed the news, a lot of Cougar fans are upset because of the new three-year series between Gonzaga and Washington State. The in-state rivalry, which dates back to 1907 (with a few years off since), has been of the most sacred non-conference sort in college basketball -- the home and home.
So, color me surprised when the news leaks that Gonzaga has decided to change the format of the arrangement. Or rather, since it takes two to schedule, Gonzaga offered a change and Washington State accepted.
Can confirm #WSU will play Gonzaga at Spokane Arena next year as part of a 3-year contract of at Gonzaga, at Spokane Arena then at WSU.— Jacob Thorpe (@JacobThorpeSR) April 17, 2014
That change seems unnecessary and I'm not sure what the athletic department is doing here outside of trying to make enemies where there used to be friends.
I don't know the specifics of scheduling, but I have to imagine scheduling the annual game against Washington State isn't that hard. Mike Roth probably calls Bill Moos and the two compare Google calendars and its done before they have time to catch each other up on how their families are doing.
Gonzaga, as many of the WSU faithful have correctly noted, has pretty much flexed its state of Washington basketball muscle and changed the game by throwing in, presumably, a third game at a "neutral" site like Spokane Arena.
I don't need to be the first to tell you that there is nothing about any basketball court, from Spokane Arena to a simple half court at the nearby park, that is neutral. Basketball in Spokane is Gonzaga oriented 24/7. Sure, the larger size of Spokane Arena *may allow* for some traveling WSU fans to make the trip from Pullman, or for alums living in Spokane to make the game, but it also allows for a lot more GU fans to attend.
The format of the WSU/GU rivalry needed no changing, and the changing here also worries me that in the future, three years from now when the games have been played out, the next time Gonzaga proposes something like this, the answer will be no.
Remember how mad we all were when Washington proposed to rekindle the UW/GU rivalry by playing three straight games at the neutral site of Key Arena? Remember how Mark Few and virtually all of Gonzaga nation told UW to take the proposal and shove it right back up near the location in their ass where their brain thought it up?
"The chances of that happening are about the same as Bigfoot having my baby," Few told SI.com. "That's like me saying, Gonzaga proposes a five-year deal at Spokane Arena. There, I just made a proposal. That's as logical as this deal [would be]."
Few didn't mince words there. A lot of people in Spokane didn't mince words there. In three years, the worst case scenario very easily could be Bill Moos not mincing his words and a lot of people in Pullman not mincing their words.
That, most of all, would be the worst part about this. With all sports becoming so focused on money, the natural rivalries have suffered immensely. Duke and Maryland? Gone the way of the buffalo. Kansas and Missouri, who also started playing in 1907, stopped in 2012. Gonzaga already lost UW by way of egos on both sides of the coin. Natural rivalries are great for the sport, the programs and most of all the fans. Gonzaga lost one in-state rival a few years ago, it can't afford to lose another.