The UAlbany and Siena women’s basketball teams will meet this weekend, renewing a rivalry that took a hiatus last year.
The school’s men’s teams?
They won’t play each other this weekend, and that’s nothing new at this point. The schools couldn’t agree on a deal to keep the “Albany Cup” series going past the 2017-18 season, with the location of the game the sticking point. Siena wanted the game played every year in downtown Albany at its home Times Union Center that can accommodate more fans in attendance than UAlbany’s SEFCU Arena, while UAlbany wanted the series to rotate between the schools’ home arenas after it played 16 of the first 17 Albany Cup games inside Siena’s home arena.
But here is what’s new: UAlbany athletic director Mark Benson and Siena athletic director John D’Argenio each said Monday there will be a conversation at some point in the next few months about the Great Danes and Saints meeting in men’s basketball in 2020 and beyond.
“That’s a call that will happen at some point,” D’Argenio said.
“That sounds right,” Benson said. “We’d love to talk about resuming the rivalry.”
Benson and D’Argenio said they don't think either school has changed its stance on what it will take for the men’s basketball programs to agree to play since the schools couldn’t reach a deal in 2018 to continue the series. It’s notable, though, that Benson and D’Argenio will discuss getting the men’s game between UAlbany and Siena back on the schedule; such a conversation hasn’t taken place since August 2018.
“We haven’t had a real, full discussion on it in quite some time,” Benson said.
Throughout negotiations in 2017 and 2018 between the schools, Benson and D’Argenio said it wasn’t necessary for the schools’ men’s teams to play in order for the women’s teams to play. The women’s teams, though, didn’t play last year. Both Benson and D’Argenio credited the head coaches of those programs — Colleen Mullen at UAlbany, Ali Jaques at Siena — for working to come up with a home-and-home series — rebranded as the “Crosstown Showdown” — that starts 2 p.m. Saturday at Siena’s Alumni Recreation Center and heads next year to SEFCU Arena.
“I think it’s great for the teams to play,” said Benson, a sentiment D’Argenio echoed. “It’s a good local rivalry.”
D’Argenio said approximately 2,000 tickets had been sold as of Monday for Saturday’s game. Capacity for the ARC is 2,200, and D’Argenio said the expectation is Saturday’s matchup will play before a sold-out crowd.
When the men’s game took place at SEFCU Arena in 2016, announced attendance was a sold-out crowd of 4,538. At the arena in downtown Albany, the matchup regularly played before a crowd exceeding 10,000 fans.
Siena’s point has consistently been that the rivalry game should be played where the most fans are able to see it in person, which is its home arena. “Different ways to split the gate” have been discussed, D’Argenio said, but his school’s stance — at least, for now — remains the same as it was in 2017.
“I just really feel that we started the game to play it for the community and to get the biggest crowd as possible for it,” D’Argenio said. “That was always our intention from the beginning.”
“And I think we’ve been very consistent that it needs to be a more equitable series,” Benson said. “Nothing’s changed along those lines.”
But what’s changed is the schools, after a break of a little more than a year, are ready to start talking again about their men’s basketball teams playing one another. At the moment, that conversation appears likely to play out similarly to how it went in 2018, and that means a men’s basketball game between UAlbany and Siena in 2020 still seems like a long shot — but there is at least a shot.
“I think the fact we’re both willing to sit down and talk is a good sign,” Benson said.