By KEVIN McNAMARA
We thought the brush fire that ignited over Providence College’s decision not to play the University of Rhode Island in basketball this season had died down.
On Thursday, Rams coach David Cox lit the fuse once again. A day after admitting that his team is scrambling for games to fill out this already bizarre season’s schedule, Cox went to the old Twitter Machine and issued a public plea for the Friars to reconsider and find a date to play the Rams.
The end line is the plea/taunt: “This State, These Fan Bases, And These Young Men Deserve This Game.”
So Providence clearly doesn’t agree with Cox. The Friars, citing a lack of available dates, a reduction in the number of allowed games by the NCAA and a non-conference slate that’s already filled with enough `power’ games, decided to take a year off from the state series.
After several hours of watching Cox’s tweet spark fan discussion, the Friars responded on the PC Athletics Twitter account. They chose to go the Mean Girls’ route.
So who’s right, who’s wrong?
It’s a pandemic, guys. Things are upside down in the college basketball world.
I see both sides. I see that PC replaced the date its had originally agreed to with URI with a game against Fairleigh Dickinson. That didn’t go over well in Ram Land.
Speaking on WHJJ’s `David Cox Show’ the Ram coach said not playing PC “is a disappointing feeling for not only myself and this fan base but our seniors.” He added that URI is now scrambling for several games and having problems finding Quad 1 and 2 foes, even saying “beggars can’t be picky.”
But I get it up in Friar Town. PC can play as many as 27 games but more are being squeezed into the Nov. 25-Dec. 23 window than ever before. During that stretch Providence will play Indiana and two more heavyweights at the Maui (in North Carolina) Invitational. They’ll also play at TCU in a Big East/Big 12 Battle game, one that truthfully shouldn’t happen and probably knocked the Rhody game out of discussion.
More problematically is a Big East decision to play four, and maybe even five, conference games during that window. Everyone in college basketball is fearing rising coronavirus numbers and the likelihood of games being postponed in January and February. The Big East wants to head that off at the pass and put a chunk of its 20-game schedule in the fold before Christmas.
That’s at least eight high-level games before Christmas. Fitting URI in – likely before no fans – is well down the list of priorities.
In a Zoom meeting with the local media, PC’s Ed Cooley weighed in and simply said his decision was about setting up his program the best way to make the NCAA Tournament.
“Looking at out non-conference schedule I’m always going to do what’s in the best interest of Providence College,” Cooley said. “Given the pandemic and given all these moving pieces, in particular this Maui Tournament, I just feel it’s in the best interest of my program, of which I’m going to be selfish for every single year, that we look forward to playing other non-conference games in the future. Providence College is in a healthy place with our non-conference schedule.”
So there you have it. URI needs the PC game to spice up its non-league schedule.
PC doesn’t need the game at all this year.
Let the Snit Game rage.