By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The same men’s basketball rivalry that pitted Bruce Pearl against Deon Thomas in the late 1980s now has another controversy helping to stoke the fire heading into Saturday’s game between Iowa and Illinois at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
News broke on Wednesday that the Iowa Athletic Department had invalidated 200 tickets that were purchased in October by the Illinois student section known as the Orange Krush because they were bought under false pretenses.
Iowa released the following statement:
“The Iowa Athletics Department became aware of a discounted group ticket order for the Iowa-Illinois on behalf of an Illinois chapter of the Boys and Girls Club. In following up with that organization, it became clear that this was not factual. When contacting the individual that made the ticket order, they admitted to falsely ordering the tickets under the non-profit organization.
“Iowa athletics has refunded the original ticket order and donated tickets to the Boys and Girls Club of Cedar Rapids. We look forward to welcoming these kids to a sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday.”
Iowa’s statement was released about 90 minutes after the Orange Krush had released a rambling, snarky and self-righteous statement in which it portrayed itself as the victim and Iowa as the villain. The statement from the Orange Krush also conveniently left out the part about purchasing the tickets under a disguise.
Statement from the Orange Krush: pic.twitter.com/etb13geis1
— The Orange Krush (@TheOrangeKrush) February 2, 2023
The Orange Krush has a history of using elaborate disguises to gain access to away games.
And while you might admire its gamesmanship and dedication, to pose as a charity for underprivileged kids is just a bad look.
Each year, the Orange Krush picks an Illinois road game to attend. It was Iowa in 2010 and 2015, while several other Big Ten sites have been destinations.
This year was to be the 20th in which the Krush attended a road game.
The Krush took a chance with this latest disguise, but eventually got caught and now it has to pay the consequences.
The Orange Krush is hardly the victim in this case.
It uses disguises and cover stories to gain access to road games because the Krush knows that Big Ten schools would prefer that it not attend their home games.
The Orange Krush proudly calls itself the best sixth man in the nation, but that still doesn’t make it right to use disguises to purchase tickets, especially when posing as a charity for underprivileged kids.
This latest controversy should motivate the Iowa students to show up in mass for Saturday’s game, which is sold out.
The Orange Krush complained in its statement about losing money in this case, but that’s the risk you taking when using a disguise to purchase tickets.
Iowa senior guard Connor McCaffery helped to stoke the fire by saying on Twitter that losing money is what you get for posing as a boys and girls club.
Saturday’s game already figured to be highly emotional, and maybe even a little chippy because that is often the case when Iowa and Illinois face each other in men’s basketball.
However, this latest controversy might take it to a whole new level.
As for the Bruce Pearl controversy, it happened in 1989 when Pearl, then an assistant coach at Iowa, accused the University of Illinois of trying to lure Chicago Simeon recruit Thomas with $80,000 and a Chevy Blazer.
Pearl secretly tape-recorded conversations with Thomas and turned those tapes over to the NCAA, which launched an 18-month investigation that ultimately revealed no wrongdoing by the Illini in the Thomas case.
However, the investigation did lead to other charges and the NCAA punished Illinois by handing down some harsh sanctions.
Pearl went on to become a pariah in the coaching ranks for years because he broke the unofficial code of turning in a fellow coach.
However, he has since rebounded nicely and is currently the head coach at Auburn, and is also considered one of the top coaches in the collegiate ranks.
Okay fine – I’ll say something. Illinois fans – admirable attempt! I love it, but we got ya. It was a really good try. This is gamesmanship in a rivalry and we took this round. More rounds to come!(As for the lost money – that’s what u get for posing as the boys and girls club!)
— Connor McCaffery (@connor_m30) February 2, 2023