Albany County

UAlbany, Siena men’s basketball programs to resume Albany Cup rivalry next season

The Albany Cup in men's basketball is expected to resume next season.

The Albany Cup in men's basketball is expected to resume next season.

With a terse message released on social media, the UAlbany and Siena athletic departments signaled Monday that the schools’ men’s basketball rivalry will resume starting next season.

The two-word tease: “It’s back.”

A formal press conference, the schools announced, will take place Tuesday at 677 Prime in Albany to “reveal complete details” for an unspecified “special announcement.” 

But there was no confusion regarding what the topic of conversation will be at a press conference that’s expected to feature UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson and men’s basketball head coach Dwayne Killings, and Siena athletic director John D’Argenio and men’s basketball head coach Carmen Maciariello. All four men declined to comment Monday when reached by The Daily Gazette, but a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed the schools had reached a three-game agreement to restart its men’s basketball rivalry. In 2022 and 2024, the teams will play at the recently renamed MVP Arena in downtown Albany, which is Siena’s home court, and they will play in 2023 at SEFCU Arena on the campus of UAlbany. While played at MVP Arena, the game in 2022 will be contested as a neutral-court game with revenue and tickets split between the programs.

It was unclear Monday when on the calendar the games would take place each season.

While the schools’ women’s basketball programs have continued to play each other in home-and-home fashion, the men’s Albany Cup rivalry was halted following the 2017-18 season after 17 consecutive seasons that saw the teams play. Disagreement over how to continue the series led to the rivalry’s pause; in general, Siena’s position was that the series should exclusively be played in its downtown home arena due to its larger seating capacity compared to SEFCU Arena, while the Great Danes wanted true home games of their own — or, at least, a “more equitable” arrangement, as Benson often put it.

The new arrangement is similar to the three-game agreement the schools had for games in 2015, 2016 and 2017, and offers something for both sides. UAlbany gets its true home game in 2023 and the game later this year will be similar to how the programs handled the logistics of their 2017 matchup at then-Times Union Center, while Siena gets the extra game played in its home arena, albeit without some of the benefits of a traditional home-court game.

Siena leads the Division I Albany Cup series 10-7, but UAlbany has won five of the last six matchups between the teams. To date, the schools have only played once on UAlbany’s home floor since they started playing as Division I competitors in 2001. That game at SEFCU Arena was in 2016, when the rivalry between the two program’s then-head coaches ran hot in the lead-up to the game, with UAlbany’s Will Brown and Siena’s Jimmy Patsos engaging in a verbal back-and-forth related to their programs and the rivalry’s future.

The schools, though, were mostly agreeably disagreeable with one another regarding the rivalry’s future throughout the years they didn’t play. Like Monday when the schools teamed up to signal the men’s basketball rivalry was set to resume next season, the schools synced up timing in the summer of 2018 for the public release of their non-conference schedules to serve as a joint acknowledgment that the sides could not agree to extend their series. While the schools took a one-season break from playing in women’s basketball in 2018 in connection with the men’s teams not playing, they returned to playing against each other in 2019. Meanwhile, the schools continued to regularly compete in other sports, and Benson and D’Argenio semi-regularly discussed how to resume the men’s basketball series.

This season, Siena is off to a 5-6 start and UAlbany is 4-10. Both teams recently experienced schedule disruptions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, but the Great Danes returned to action last Thursday and the Saints played Sunday.

Categories: College Sports, Sports

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