GWU vs. Georgetown in Basketball?
Those who have ever played one-on-one in their schoolyard or sunk a jump shot in a pick-up game or just launched an imaginary three-pointer to win at the buzzer – we love this time of year. March Madness, one giant American event that never lets you down. Congratulations to the NCAA men’s basketball national champions Duke University. One exciting game this year reminded me of a local rivalry that should happen and hasn’t in many, many years. Wichita State has wanted to play in-state rival Kansas for decades. When Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall ran into University of Kansas coach Bill Self last year, Marshall suggested they play. Self just laughed and walked away.
The Shockers had the last laugh. They beat the Jayhawks in the NCAA tournament this year.
Which brings me to the men’s basketball programs of Georgetown University and George Washington University. Georgetown was the national champion way back in 1984, and, in the immortal words of the late Marion Barry, they have never “gotten over it.”
Georgetown refuses to play its neighbor in nearby Foggy Bottom, George Washington. To properly understand why this has not occurred, I called basketball expert and columnist John Feinstein.
Feinstein has written about Georgetown arrogance and elitism for years. He told me that “Georgetown doesn’t think they have anything to gain.” The decision was not made by the present coach, John Thompson III, but by his father. The son takes the “cues from the father,” Feinstein said. And he went on to say that no one will “dare criticize Big John.”
Well, I will.
There’s more to this story. For 20 years, Pete Teeley has organized a tournament every Christmastime at the Verizon Center. Today, it is known as the BB&T Classic, a glorious event that has raised more than $9 million over the years for the Children’s Charity Foundation. It wasn’t until this past year that Georgetown University deigned to participate – with the explicit stipulation that it not play GW. (For 19 years, Georgetown did not participate at all.)
Feinstein was one of the original organizers. He went to Georgetown and thought they would surely play. As he recalled thinking, “It was for charity.” But, he said, “I was wrong.” Quite simply, Georgetown won’t play GW because the team might lose.
You see, doing something for the city is not what moves them. They don’t identify with D.C. They just don’t give a damn. And they get away with it.
I tried to contact Georgetown University President John DeGioia on this subject. He never called back. Now, I must confess that I am a GW alumnus. More important, I am a resident of this city. A hometown rivalry – GW vs. Georgetown – would be great for this place. But Georgetown won’t suit up.
Political analyst Mark Plotkin is a contributor to the BBC on American politics and a contributor to TheHill.com.