'Big Four Classic' nixed
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
IOWA CITY — The annual doubleheader between Iowa, Iowa State, Northern Iowa and Drake will come to an end after next season.
The Hawkeyes announced on Thursday that they are pulling out of the Des Moines-based event partly because the Big Ten is moving from an 18- to a 20-game schedule, which limits their options in non-conference scheduling.
“The addition of two conference games is good for our fans, the Big Ten Conference and our strength of schedule, but unfortunately it created some scheduling challenges that impacts this event,” Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said.
Iowa and Iowa State held home-and-home series with Northern Iowa and Drake, both Missouri Valley Conference members, until 2012 — an unusually generous gesture for the high-major schools. The Big Four Classic, as it came to be known, was a neutral-floor compromise that the Hawkeyes and Cyclones reached with their mid-major rivals. It came on the heels of consecutive blowouts road losses by Iowa at Northern Iowa.
The Hawkeyes and Cyclones’ RPI wasn’t impacted much in the years when they faced the Panthers, one of better mid-major programs in the country. But Drake has struggled mightily ever since the Big Four was created, so facing the Bulldogs didn’t do much to help Iowa or Iowa State’s NCAA Tournament resume.
“We are extremely disappointed that the Big Four Classic is ending following this year’s event. This event has provided a tremendous opportunity for the fans of basketball in the state of Iowa to see all four teams compete in one building on the same day,” Northern Iowa athletic director David Harris said.
The final doubleheader will be held on Dec. 15, when the Hawkeyes face Northern Iowa and the Cyclones face Drake. The annual series between Iowa and Iowa State will go on as scheduled.
“It is a sad day for passionate basketball fans of all four programs who have enjoyed nearly a century of history and rivalries between these four schools that were played in various great venues in our state,” Drake athletic director Brian Hardin said.