posted on: Thursday January 28, 2010
John Butler ’11 /Asst. Sports Editor
It was a real shocker to me, a Rhode Island kid through-and-through, when I heard the rumors during finals last semester that the Friars-Rams basketball rivalry was in jeopardy, due to PC’s reluctance to return to the Ryan Center.The good news is that the talk quickly simmered down to quiet murmurs, which were then put to rest (sort of) by Athletic Director Robert Driscoll, who was quoted in The Providence Journal in late December as affirming that the 90-year-old rivalry would continue. Driscoll has the best interests of the program at heart, but his ambiguous comments still leave some question marks in my mind about his intentions. While the rivalry may be safe for the present, the fact that PC even broached the subject is tantamount to basketball blasphemy.All of this transpired in the wake of Providence’s loss at the hands of URI on Saturday, Dec. 5, once classes were over and The Cowl had finished publishing for the fall semester. The quick and dirty is that rumors began flying after PC lost to URI 86-82, the Friars’ fourth consecutive defeat at the Rams’ home court. The present contract provides for one more game, and the concerns were that Providence was not willing to return to Kingston for what recent history suggests is a pesky thorn in the side of the Friars’ schedule.But recent history is just the tip of the iceberg for this clashing of Rhode Island’s premier basketball teams which dates back to 1920. December’s contest was the 122nd meeting between the Friars and the Rams, and the reinvigorated intensity in the match-up so evident in recent years hearkens back to the days when a PC-URI game was like a Super Bowl in this state. This rivalry is soaked with meaning for not only the students of PC and URI, but also for the people of Rhode Island. These are thoroughly Rhode Island teams.I am one of those people, and these are my hopes for those with sway in the Providence College Department of Athletics: I hope they understand that this rivalry is not just about PC and URI. I hope they see that this annual meeting is the granddaddy of Rhode Island intra-state basketball. I hope they recognize that a Friars-Rams game every other year is an insult to a tradition that, during its heyday, pitted the two against each other two times a year. I hope they remember that college basketball is not professional basketball. I hope they toughen up, and continue sending our boys down to Kingston, even if it means a loss, because to do otherwise would be to die the coward’s death.What’s more: I hope they see Providence College basketball for what it is. This is not a huge market, and PC does not have the assets and luxuries that a Louisville or a Villanova or a Georgetown can devote to its basketball program. It is highly unlikely that any of us will see a Friar team (or a Ram team) in the Final Four in our lifetime because college basketball today is not college basketball of the 1970s or of the 1980s or even of the 1990s. It may be a shame, but it is a reality.