IOWA CITY — The Hy-Vee Classic, the annual December doubleheader involving Iowa’s four NCAA Division I men’s basketball programs, will be discontinued after next season.
The University of Iowa announced on Thursday that scheduling problems have forced the Hawkeyes to pull out of the event, which has been played at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines since 2012.
The final Hy-Vee Classic will be Dec. 15 with Iowa playing Northern Iowa and Iowa State taking on Drake.
The four schools had signed to continue the doubleheader through the 2019 season, but Iowa director of athletics Gary Barta said that agreement stipulated that any of the schools could cancel the remainder of the contract if they were required to play 22 or more games by their conference.
The Big Ten is increasing the number of conference games from 18 to 20 next season and league teams also are required to participate in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and the Gavitt Games, a series of games against teams from the Big East.
"The addition of two conference games is good for our fans, the Big Ten Conference and our strength of schedule," Barta said, "but unfortunately it created some scheduling challenges that impact this (Hy-Vee) event."
Iowa was not involved in the Gavitt Games last season and also will not be a part of it next season, but it is scheduled to return to the Gavitt rotation in the 2019-20 season.
"We truly appreciate the support of the fans in central Iowa, the Wells Fargo Arena staff, and Hy-Vee for their commitment to this event," Barta added. "As we have in the past, the Hawkeyes will continue to evaluate playing in-state schools on a sport-by-sport, case-by-case basis."
The Hawkeyes will continue to play Iowa State each season in the annual Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk game, but it remains to be seen whether they will play either Drake or UNI.
Iowa played both Drake and UNI every season from 1988 through 2011.
The Hy-Vee Classic, originally known as the Big Four Classic, was created in 2012 as a way for the Hawkeyes and Cyclones to play each of those schools every other season. Iowa played UNI in Des Moines in 2012, 2014 and 2016 and faced Drake there in 2013, 2015 and 2017.
UNI director of athletics David Harris said he was "extremely disappointed" by the decision.
"This event has provided a tremendous opportunity for the fans of basketball in the state of Iowa to see all four teams compete in one building on the same day," he said. "The Big Four Classic was played in a great venue in a centralized area of the state to help generate a fantastic basketball experience in Iowa."
Drake director of athletics Brian Hardin expressed hope that his school somehow can still find a way to schedule Iowa and/or Iowa State.
"What has made our state unique on the college basketball landscape was the willingness and cooperation between the state’s four Division I universities to play each other on a regular basis …," he said.
"I understand the position that Iowa and Iowa State believe they are in. However, it is a sad day for passionate basketball fans of all four programs who have enjoyed nearly a century of history and rivalries between these four schools that were played in various great venues in our state. I look forward to working with my colleagues at Iowa, Iowa State and UNI on determining an appropriate next chapter for our Big Four games."