SEATTLE (AP) — After a decade-long layoff, Washington and Gonzaga are finally getting together on the basketball court again.
The two schools announced Monday the renewal of their basketball series, beginning in the 2016-17 season. The series was last played in 2006 and faced numerous obstacles in past attempts to get the two programs — separated by 300 miles — back on the court together.
“This series is great for the fans of our state,” Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said in a statement. “The fans have shown that they really appreciate the game with Washington and Gonzaga. I mean, every one of them since we’ve been here has been a sellout, or close to it. There’s a lot of enthusiasm and hype centered around the game when these two teams meet.”
The date and location of the first game is yet to be determined, but the contract is a four-year deal with games on the home court of each school in alternating years.
Getting here wasn’t easy. There was a proposal for a series of “neutral site” games played at KeyArena in Seattle presented by Washington in 2009 that was almost immediately shot down by Gonzaga.
There was also the belief that there was lingering animosity between Romar and Gonzaga coach Mark Few stemming from player recruitment in the past.
“Our home-and-homes have been great,” Few said in a release. “Certainly when we did play Washington the games were very high intensity, great crowds and great passion. We hope to have that same feeling with the next four years of the series.”
Washington leads the dormant series 29-14, but Gonzaga has won eight of the last nine meetings. That coincides with Gonzaga’s rise to a national power making runs in the NCAA tournament each spring. The schools met every season between December 1997 and December 2006 before the rivalry went on hiatus.
The schools were unable to start the contract any sooner because of non-conference commitments already made for the next two seasons. Both schools have their 2014-15 schedules filled and Washington already had committed to playing Texas in 2015 in China.
“If you’ve been around the last few years you’ve heard me say a hundred times, ‘We will play Gonzaga again,'” Romar said. “And now we will.”
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