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A Bucket Game at Lucas Oil? May It Never Happen

The Bucket Game at Lucas Oil is an Abomination before Almighty God.

NCAA Football: Indiana at Purdue Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

It is 69 miles (nice) from Ross-Ade Stadium to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

It is 49.1 miles from Indiana’s Memorial Stadium to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

With a state-of-the-art indoor NFL Stadium located roughly equidistant between the two schools the idea of Indiana and Purdue playing the Old Oaken Bucket game in Indianapolis seems tempting. If it happens, it would be at least a two year experiment, as neither school would give up a full home game for it. Purdue President Mitch Daniels also thinks it is a good idea, so now some fans are getting behind it.

First off, there is a precedent for a neutral site game in Indianapolis. Way back in 1903 the schools agreed to play a neutral site game at Washington Park in Indianapolis. It was the 11th game in the all-time series and first held off campus. Up to 1900, 7 of the first 8 games were played in West Lafayette. But starting in 1901 the game alternated between Bloomington and West Lafayette. After playing in Bloomington in 1901 and West Lafayette in 1902 the 1903 game was set for Halloween.

It would never happen because of the infamous Purdue Wreck, where the train carrying the Purdue football team collided with a coal train, killing 17 people, 14 of them players. Several more suffered crippling injuries including future Indiana Governor Harry G. Leslie. Naturally, the game was cancelled. The 1904 game was played in Indianapolis and Purdue won 27-0. To date, it is the only time Purdue and Indiana have played each other off of their respective campuses. Every game in the series has alternated locations until 2014, when the Big Ten realignment led to Indiana hosting in Bloomington in back-to-back years in 2013 and 2014 before the schools started alternating again.

This Saturday is the 122nd meeting in the series and it has only been played once in Indianapolis. It has been played in Bloomington 59 times, West Lafayette 63 times (counting this week) and Indianapolis exactly once. It was, quite literally, a train wreck playing it in Indy. Still, people think it is a good idea.

When the football is good there is little excuse to have an empty stadium, and we have seen that even when it is mediocre, there is a good crowd. Two years ago both teams were 5-6, but there was a crowd of 52,105. It was the second biggest crowd of the season that year, topped only by Michigan when it was 7,000 degrees in the visitor’s locker room. Extreme weather was not a factor that day. Put on some layers. If you need a warm, indoor location to watch football you probably don’t care that much about football. Also, this doesn’t stop all the other cold weather Thanksgiving weekend games from going forward.

Part of the reason college football is FAR superior to watch than the NFL is the campus environment. Lucas Oil is sterile and boring. I have been to several college games at Joe Robbie/ProPlayer/Dolphin(s)/LandShark/SunLife Park/Stadium several times and it does not even have a tenth of the character of the old Miami Orange Bowl. In rivalry games alcohol will be consumed and people will be dicks regardless of location. I’ve been to Bloomington multiple times and never had an issue with the fans. This is a weak argument.

IT IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE A 50/50 SPLIT!!!! HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE IS A THING! Besides, a ton of Purdue fans travel to Bloomington every two years anyway. Last year it was pretty close to a 50/50 split. In some years we have even turned it into Ross-Ade South. Also, Purdue or Indiana playing for a spot in the B1G title game is an extremely rare event. Purdue clinched at home in 2000 to go to Pasadena, but before that you have to go back to 1967 when Indiana won in Bloomington to create a split title between Purdue, Indiana, and Minnesota. Since they are in opposite divisions there is a possibility that they could have a rematch a week later, but that is like saying I have a chance of becoming President in next year’s election. I am over 35 and can run, but it ain’t happening. You’re telling me that in the once in 70 years chance the game has major stakes you want to give up a possible home field advantage?

Because a raucous home atmosphere against a rival, regardless of weather, would be a negative factor in recruiting. With the new early signing period the final games of the year aren’t much of a factor in recruiting, anyway.

I kind of like the basketball idea here, unfortunately it can’t happen. This week and specifically this weekend is a big one for the exempt early season tournament events that every team plays in. Neither Purdue nor Indiana is giving up the chance to play in Maui, The Bahamas, the Hall of Fame Classic, etc. for a Crossroads-like event in Indy. As long as “Feast Week” for college basketball is happening this won’t happen.

Both schools are an hour from Indy. They know the rivalry. Distance is not a factor.

I went to the Colts-Dolphins a few weeks ago and it was far from sold out. I had trouble avoiding lapsing into a coma in the third quarter. Football at Lucas Oil in a less than sold out environment feels like it is in a cavernous airplane hangar.

If there is national interest it will be a national game. When Kansas and Missouri played in a rare neutral site game in 2007 a potential spot in the national title game was on the line. It was a national game because of that, not because it was in an NFL stadium. Oh, and it was an OUTDOOR NFL stadium. Again, you’re looking at 1967 as the last time there were major national stakes on the game. Only twice, in 2007 and 1979, have both teams even gone bowling after the Bucket game.

There are currently six classes in Indiana, and the IHSAA state finals are held with three games on the Friday of Thanksgiving and three on the Saturday. Right now the season starts in mid-August and needs 15 weeks (9 regular season, 6 playoffs) for classes 1A, 2A, 3A, and 4A to get to the state finals. 5A and 6A are essentially half classes with 32 teams each and have the first weeks of sectionals off, so they need just 14 weeks. There are single-day extravaganzas at Lucas Oil where they play four high school games in a row, but that doesn’t include any trophy ceremonies postgame and it is a tight fit. In theory, you could play 5A and 6A a week earlier because their playoffs are a week shorter, then have 1A-4A all on one day, but that would be very, very tight to get all four games in at say 10am, 1:30pm, 6pm, and 9:30pm. There is no way you could do all six in one day unless you moved 1A to, say, Carmel HS, 2A to Warren Central, 3A to Ben Davis, etc. I suppose an alternative is to have Indiana host three classes and Purdue to host 3 classes while the Bucket game is in Indiana, but then it is a logistical nightmare for both athletic departments.

Still not seeing it, mostly for the reasons above. Of course, my in-laws live in Miami and have never been to Indiana. I’d rather go visit them by Thanksgiving.

These are long-established neutral site games for whatever reason. In over a hundred meetings Army and Navy have only played on each other’s campuses once each. Florida and Georgia have played on each other’s campus once each since 1933, and that took rebuilding the stadium in Jacksonville for two years because of the Jaguars to make it happen. Oklahoma and Texas haven’t played in Norman or Austin since 1908.

The point comes back down to weather and that doesn’t hold any water. Michigan and Ohio State have to play in the same or worse weather and there would be a full-scale riot if those games were moved to a neutral site. The same with Minnesota-Wisconsin, Nebraska-Iowa, Washington-Washington State, Oregon-Oregon State, etc. Football happens in weather. There was snow on the ground two weeks ago. It happens. Learn to deal with it.