The biggest head-shaker in Valley sports has been the behind the scenes rift between Arizona State and Grand Canyon University. I asked Ray Anderson about playing GCU in basketball several years ago and he rightly said that it was something that was being discussed at a higher level. I had lunch with one of the administrators of the two schools last summer. At the time this person said that the “thaw was starting to happen” between Presidents Crow and Mueller. Another person told how at one time the two couldn’t even agree on which campus to have a meeting and had to settle for a neutral site to break bread. In the meantime, I had coaches from both schools talk about how great it would be to just take vans or a bus 16.4 miles to play games, the money that would be saved 0n travel budgets, time away from classes, weather problems, etc, etc, etc. It made too much sense.
From my view the main reason the two schools couldn’t put everything to the side was purely online class enrollment. Playing a basketball game is one thing, taking away market share is another. GCU was the new kid on the block in 2009 with a very aggressive marketing budget and a shiny new on-campus facility in 2011. There was also a real estate issue that happened between a development group with strong ties to GCU and Arizona State for a project at Mill and University.
To my amazement and pleasant surprise for Valley sports fans, the two sides havefinally able to work through the off-the-court nonsense and agree to do what is best for the sporting community. They will play basketball games starting this December at GCU.
This came from Arizona State earlier today. “We look forward to starting a series at Grand Canyon this season,” says Sun Devil head coach Bobby Hurley who has led ASU to three straight 20-win seasons and enters his sixth year at ASU in 2020-21. “Bryce Drew and his family are well-known in the college basketball world and as we welcome them to the Valley, it made sense to have an efficient home-and-home with his program.”
This came from Grand Canyon University today. “We are thrilled for the opportunity to play a series with Arizona State,” first-year Lopes head coach Bruce Drew said. “(ASU head coach) Bobby Hurley has built one of the better programs in the country, and this will be a series that the Phoenix area will be very excited for.”
GCU and ASU never have met at the Division I level, but the teams did take to the court for exhibition action on Nov. 5, 2011, to mark the opening of GCU Arena. The lone official meeting between the programs took place 40 years ago with the D-I Devils claiming an 80-68 win over the NAIA Lopes in Tempe.
“Congratulations to Coach Drew and to Coach Hurley for getting this set up,” GCU President Brian Mueller said. “This is going to be a great event for the two universities, their students, alumni and fan bases. It will be a fantastic way to showcase college basketball in the Valley.”
“This is a great opportunity for two local programs with history of success in collegiate basketball to finally meet on the court,” Arizona State President Michael Crow said. “We hope it is the beginning of a new spirited rivalry between universities who have long contributed to the culture of the Valley, now in a new and entertaining way.