Has the I-74 Rivalry lost its edge?

By WEEK Producer

January 29, 2014 Updated Jan 29, 2014 at 11:10 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Its been almost 18 years since Chad Kleine suited up for the Bradley basketball team. And he still doesn't like Illinois State.

"What you were taught from the beginning was that people will grade you on how you play Illinois State," said Kleine.

But not so much anymore. The once bitter rivalry has faded over the years - so much so that seven hours before tip-off there were still roughly 2,000 tickets left for Wednesday night's game.

Peoria Journal Star sports editor Kirk Wessler has been covering games between Bradley and ISU for decades. He believes the waning interest in the series is part of a culture change. But he says its nothing better basketball wouldn't fix.

"It still comes down to winning," Wessler said. "The fact that neither program has seriously contended for a Valley title in 15 years is a big reason why what you see what we see today."

"If it is the in-thing to do then they'll go," said Dave Snell, Bradley's radio voice 1979.

Snell says what the rivalry needs to be rejuvenated is what got it started in the first place.

"You had the coaches, Dick Versace and Bob Donewald, who disliked each other intensely," Snell said. "You (also) had very firey coaches like Bob Bender and Kevin Stallings."

And you had students engaged.

So, will this basketball rivalry ever rebound?

"Its cyclical," offered Kleine.

Perhaps a new cycle will start Wednesday night.