Gonzaga and Washington have not played each other since 2006. This dead rivalry is one that has to be resurrected for the sake of all hardcore college basketball fans in the state of Washington. While I can't sit down in the various negotiations that have happened between the two school's athletic directors and coaching staffs, I can offer a creative platform that both these schools can play each other in.
Let me introduce you to the 'Washington Basketball Classic."
There are eight teams that would part of it: Gonzaga, Washington, Washington St., Seattle U, Western Washington, Central Washington, Eastern Washington, and Seattle Pacific University. The "Classic" would feature four games pitting the teams against each other in a day long celebration of basketball in the state of Washington at Key Arena during the non-conference portion of every team's schedule.
UW, WSU, Gonzaga, and Seattle U would play each other in yearly rotating games, while SPU, Western, Eastern and Central would play each other in other yearly rotating matchups. Since UW and WSU play each other twice in conference, they'd never play each other and instead switch off yearly facing Gonzaga and Seattle U respectively. The same would happen for Western and Central who are also in the same conference.
For example, here is a mock schedule:
UW vs. Gonzaga
WSU vs. Seattle U
SPU vs. Western
Central vs. Eastern
UW vs. Seattle U
Gonzaga vs. WSU
SPU vs. Central
Western vs. Eastern.
The showcase game will be the last game played and will always feature Gonzaga. The Bulldogs would essentially serve as the main event. This game and the other top tier game will be televised on either ROOT Sports or ESPN. For those that think ESPN won't air the "marquee game," remember that since this game would take place on the west coast, the east coast would be asleep, therefore the audience would be mainly catered to people living on the west coast. ESPN already shows a lot of non-confernence Gonzaga and WCC games during the season and airing this game would be no different.
From a fan's perspective, it allows people in Seattle to see every major college basketball program in the state of Washington. Gonzaga already plays yearly at the Key Arena in the Battle In Seattle, but I don't see how it hurts them having another game in Seattle.
Mark Few has stated adamantly that he wants to play UW, while Husky Head Coach Lorenzo Romar has avoided and dodged the question at times. Come December 2011, it will have been five years since the teams last played each other.
I believe UW is avoiding Gonzaga. And for good reason. The Huskies have lost eight of their last nine games to the Zags. For the Huskies, they have everything to lose against Gonzaga; mainly recruits. While Gonzaga could boast about beating a major Pac-12 school, UW would have to do its best of maintaining its image as a dominant program from a big conference.
Gonzaga does not lose recruits to UW. It happens the other way around. If forced into a showcase, would the teams finally agree? That's up to them to decide, but the plan I'm proposing is just a small part of eventually solving their differences, whatever they may be.
For the other teams; Seattle U, Eastern, Western, Central and SPU, this showcase would bring only benefits to the programs. It'd increase their exposure to potential recruits and it'd allow for alumni and supporters of their programs that live in Seattle a chance to rally around their teams.
It's important to note that most of these teams end up playing each other in their non-conference schedules anyways. Why not make a big deal through having an day-long basketball classic in order to celebrate the high quality of college basketball in Washington?
While it is easy to convince the smaller schools to take part, it will be way more difficult to convince the Huskies and Gonzaga to agree to this. First off, it'd be tough making money. Of course, UW and Gonzaga would be taking in the large majority of it, but it definitely would be a decrease of funds when compared to what the two teams would make if they played other games on their home court. Additionally, Gonzaga may not see it as fair to have it at Key Arena as UW and Seattle U would essentially have a home game every single year.
I can't think of why a coach would not gravitate towards this idea if money weren't an issue. The Classic could be used as a recruiting tool, it would foster and showcase possible dead and dormant rivalries between schools in the state and lastly and most importantly, the classic would be full of good basketball. UW and Gonzaga are established Division-1 powerhouses, while WSU and Seattle U are beginning to become relevant nationally as well.
SPU isn't too bad either. The Falcons have been to the NCAA DII Tournament six years in a row. Not many people go to SPU games and SPU never has had a big stage to play their games. This event would be perfect for their program.
I realize this is highly unlikely to happen, but if Gonzaga and UW ever played each other again, the Key Arena and this basketball classic idea is the best way to facilitate and maintain the rivalry between the schools.
This is only a skeleton and it is a complete pipe dream, but what do all these schools have to lose but loyal fans who would appreciate and cherish an event like this?