Rumored for weeks, resumption for the Indiana-Kentucky series took a substantial step forward Wednesday.
Kentucky coach John Calipari confirmed at SEC media day in Birmingham, Alabama the two schools have agreed “in principle” to restart their annual regular-season series during the 2025-26 season. Multiple outlets present at SEC media days reported Calipari’s comments.
Final details still need to be worked out, with locations and timeframes to be determined. But the baseline agreement to resume one of college basketball’s most-storied rivalries is an important step — perhaps the most important step — toward getting Indiana-Kentucky back on the annual schedule.
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For more than a decade, the two sides have been at loggerheads over getting their once-storied series back on the annual schedule. A series which ran uninterrupted from 1969 through 2011 went dormant when it was not renewed following Indiana’s 73-72 last-second win against the Wildcats in Bloomington on Dec. 10 of that year.
The game made famous by Christian Watford’s iconic game-winning 3-pointer became a snapshot of a rivalry on ice. The programs’ past two meetings have both come in the NCAA tournament, Kentucky winning a Sweet 16 matchup in Atlanta near the end of that same season, and Indiana returning the favor with a 73-67 round-of-32 victory in Des Moines in 2016.
Unless the Hoosiers and Wildcats are drawn together again in the postseason between now and 2025, the layoff between games will reach nine years, and the regular-season stoppage in the rivalry will have crossed 14 years.
Left to resolve are questions of detail and logistics. Chiefly among them, where will these games be played?
At issue when Indiana and Kentucky entered their ongoing cold war last decade was, among other things, game location. Indiana preferred to keep the game on the two teams’ campuses, where it was held on a rotating basis for the last six years before it shut down. Kentucky wanted a return to neutral sites, which had been commonplace in a series that rotated for nearly two decades between the Hoosier Dome in Indianapolis and Freedom Hall in Louisville.
A blend of the two was even discussed, with an offer made to host neutral-site games in Indianapolis partnered to the campus rotation. Ultimately, no agreement was reached, and what is perhaps college basketball’s signature interconference rivalry shut down.
This is not the first time resumption has been discussed.
Behind the scenes, conversations about restarting the rivalry have never really stopped. But before now, they rarely took on coherent form either. Archie Miller, who has known Calipari for years, expressed interest in resuming the game, but nothing serious ever came of that.
The closest Indiana and Kentucky came to getting the game back on the annual schedule before this would’ve been in the CBS Sports Classic. Proposed as an annual series involving the four programs with at least five Division I men’s basketball national championships, the CBS Sports Classic would have pitted Indiana, Kentucky, UCLA and North Carolina against one another on a rotating bases across three-year cycles, with games held at neutral venues across the country.
Indiana had to decline its invitation to that event, as it conflicted with the now-defunct Crossroads Classic. Ohio State took the Hoosiers’ place. The CBS Sports Classic will host its ninth iteration at Madison Square Garden in New York on Dec. 17, the same day Indiana plays Kansas in Lawrence.
While nothing is officially sealed yet, the agreement in principle to get the series back on the schedule is a major hurdle cleared. Calipari’s willingness to discuss it publicly proves as much.
Now, fans will still do what they’ve done for the best part of a decade: wait. Their patience, however, finally has an expiration date.
Follow IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman on Twitter: @ZachOsterman.