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Siena Saints' Albany Cup win over Albany Great Danes almost didn't happen

Saturday's Albany Cup rivalry game win for Siena almost didn't happen because of disputes over the game venue.

Siena Head Coach Jimmy Patsos
Siena Head Coach Jimmy Patsos
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Brett Bisping stuffed the scoresheet with a double-double on Saturday evening, giving the Siena Saints a win over the Albany Great Danes in another installment of the Albany Cup rivalry. But the close and exciting game for fans in the capital area almost didn't happen.

In a joint press conference held in Albany, in June, Siena College and The University at Albany (UAlbany) announced that the ‘Albany Cup’ rivalry basketball game would be renewed. Many fans feared that due to the tensions between both teams over the game venue, that this deal would not get done and the end of the Albany Cup Rivalry was upon us. However, per the new three-year contract, the game will be played in the capital region for at least each of the next three upcoming seasons.

The renewed rivalry has only added fire to the long standing debate between capital region fans - as it is the first time since renewing the Division 1 rivalry in 2001 that a game will be played outside of the Times Union Center (home of the Siena Saints). At the heart of the debate is the fact that the Times Union Center (TUC) holds significantly more fans (17,500) than UAlbany’s SEFCU Arena (4,500) and has allowed for much larger crowds over the years.

On the UAlbany side of the fence, the issue has always been that it provides a home court advantage for Siena. Since 2001, Siena has won nine (9) of the fourteen (14) meetings, all the Times Union Center. (UAlbany has; however, won the last three meetings as well as four of the last five contests.)

Working in Siena’s favor is the fact that over the last 14 meetings the game has drawn nearly 155,000 fans or approximately 11,000 per contest (which is more than double the capacity of SEFCU Arena.)

After a long stalemate between the two schools, and fears that the rivalry may not continue an agreement was reached. As earlier rumors had indicated, the game would be held twice at the Times Union Center and once at SEFCU Arena. Here is how the new series will shake out:

2015-2016 Season
The first of the three games will take place at the Times Union Center this year as a Siena Home game (and will be included in Siena season ticket holders plan) on December 12th, 2015. 

2016-2017 Season
The second game in the series will be played during the 2016-2017 season at SEFCU as an Albany Home game. This game will mark the very first time this rivalry has been played on Albany’s home court in the NCAA Division 1 era for either team. This game will be included in UAlbany’s season ticket package.  

2017-2018 Season
The third and final game of this current contract will take place in the Times Union Center, however, it will not be a Siena home game, nor will it be included in either of the school’s season ticket packages for the 2017-2018 season. Instead this game will be played (on a ‘Neutral’ court) as part of a multiple team tournament. In addition to the rivalry game at the TUC, each school will also play two additional games at ‘high major’ schools and one additional game each against another mid-major institution.

It was noted at the press conference that although neither schools’ season ticket holders will have this game included in their package, there will be a 30 day window for season ticket holders from both schools to purchase tickets before they go on sale to the public.

This ‘splitting the difference’ approach of having the third game be a "Neutral" game seems to have both sides content for the time being. The consensus among players, fans and coaches appears to be relief that the rivalry will continue.

Siena Saints head coach Jimmy Patsos reiterated at the press conference in June, " It’s one of the greatest mid-major games in the country, and it’s important to sports fans in downtown Albany, and throughout the capital region. Our players love playing in the game, and I’m excited to see it continue. "

UAlbany head coach Will Brown also seemed pleased with the outcome saying, "I am looking forward to the continuation of the Siena series. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Jimmy, his program, and the basketball tradition at Siena. It has been a goal of mine to get a game in the SEFCU arena, so to see it come to fruition makes me very happy for our season ticket holders, fans, and alums."