COLUMBUS — After his team swept a home-and-home with Cincinnati, Ohio State basketball coach Chris Holtmann was asked if he wants to see the series continue.
“I think I do,” Holtmann said. “I think it’s good for us and good for both programs. Now people are also gonna ask about Xavier and Dayton. If you’re playing UC, why aren’t you playing Xavier and Dayton? Scheduling is complicated. We’ve talked about that. I think it will be something we revisit.”
His boss agreed.
“I think we would look at further opportunities with Cincinnati and maybe even anybody in Ohio,” Ohio State director of athletics Gene Smith told the Dayton Daily News while making clear nothing is imminent.
“There's no actions that are being taken at this point in time,” Smith said. “Chris and I haven't specifically talked about Dayton or Xavier, but he and I share a similar philosophy that we ought to try and play Ohio schools if possible, which is why we're doing that with the exhibition games as well. So he and I haven't talked about those two in particular, but I imagine down the road we probably will.”
If Ohio State calls, UD director of athletics Neil Sullivan confirmed he would listen.
“I think we have a good relationship, and if it's something that would ever be of interest to them certainly we'd play them, whether it’s a home-and-home or we've also talked about playing neutral,” Sullivan said.
So, what is standing in the way?
At a time when Ohio State is playing 20 conference games, multiple interconference events (such as the Big Ten/ACC Challenge) and other special games, the Buckeyes only have so many dates to fill.
“Some of those games are assigned to us,” Smith said. “We’ve got to go down to North Carolina play at 9:30 at night (this season) so you try and manage your caliber (opponent) but also when you play. Then you've got two conference games in the middle of that, and our goal is to win the conference championship first and foremost, so you don't want to create risk around that.”
Dayton, too, has a fine line to walk between playing the best schedule it can to build a case for an NCAA Tournament at-large bid without over-scheduling. The Flyers also must play enough home games to support the athletics department budget.
Sullivan is well aware of the issues teams like Ohio State face in scheduling. While he did not want to reveal much from what he termed private conversations or appear to be lobbying for games through the media, he described the discourse between OSU and UD as positive.
“I certainly think there's been some good conversation, but the stars just haven’t lined up the right way yet,” Sullivan said.
“Look, we’ve got a ton of respect for Ohio State, a ton of respect for Gene Smith. We've had some dialogue, and I think there just has been tough, primarily on their side, just some tough logistics related to their conference, but you know we certainly would be interested in playing Ohio State, UC or Xavier. We’re interested in all of those. We'd do all of those for sure.”
Smith said if an Ohio State-Dayton matchup happens, it would likely be a home-and-home for two reasons.
While a four-team event such as the Crossroads Classic played in Indiana involving the Hoosiers, Purdue, Butler and Notre Dame has been been discussed, it is "almost impossible to do," Smith said.
The schools not only must find a date and site that works but also a television partner.
"We’ve kind of walked away from that," he said.
While a multi-team event likely would generate more revenue with fans buying tickets for two games instead of one, Smith feels home-and-home series are better for the fans who have not seen Ohio State play the other in-state power programs very often.
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Prior to last season, Ohio State and Cincinnati had not played each other on either campus since 1921 while the Buckeyes and Flyers last played in the regular season in 1988. Ohio State’s only regular season meetings with Xavier were in 1933 and ’34.
(As fate would have it, the Buckeyes have played all three in the NCAA Tournament since 2007.)