Western Michigan and Detroit Mercy have a long history of competing in men’s basketball, a series that dates back more than 100 years.
But the series ceased in 2013, amid several reasons, including some hurt feelings over a couple of key transfers. This year, thanks to the relationship between Steve Hawkins and Bacari Alexander, the series is back on, under a recently reached four-year agreement that will start with a game at Calihan Hall this season.
Detroit Mercy will visit Western Michigan in 2018 and 2020, and Western Michigan will return to Calihan Hall in 2019.
“Western Michigan is something that has long taken place over the years,” said Alexander, entering his second year at Detroit Mercy. “We wanted to get it back going.”
The exact date for the start of the four-year deal hasn’t been released yet, as Western Michigan and Detroit Mercy have yet to release their full nonconference schedules.
The schools have played 53 times over the years, with Detroit Mercy leading the series, 29-24.
From 1994-2012, they played every year but once, in 2011. After struggling to agree on a date for 2013 — plus with some lingering ill will in the background — Western Michigan and Hawkins, the Broncos coach since 2003, decided to put the series on hold.
Western Michigan lost two big players to transfer to Detroit Mercy, including forward LaMarcus Lowe (Western Michigan 2008-09; Detroit Mercy 2010-12) and Juwan Howard Jr. (Western Michigan 2010-11, Detroit Mercy 2012-15), and the Broncos were caught off-guard both times.
Alexander was an assistant on Hawkins’ staff at Western in 2008-10, though, so when Alexander last year parlayed six years on Michigan’s staff into the Detroit head-coaching job, Hawkins called to congratulate him — and then suggested the series get going again.
They tried to make it happen last season, but couldn’t find an agreeable date. The four-year hiatus in the series is the fourth-longest in the series. They also had a 20-year break (1939-59), a 14-year break (1980-94) and a 10-year break (1926-36).
Western Michigan also has a four-year contract with Oakland, a deal that started last year. Oakland visits Kalamazoo this year.
Other highlights on Detroit Mercy’s upcoming nonconference schedule include games against Michigan at Little Caesars Arena as part of a December doubleheader (Michigan State and Oakland is the other game), and at UCLA and Virginia Tech. Detroit Mercy also will open again with an exhibition against Wayne State to benefit Detroit Public Schools, and will play a game against Marygrove College, along with nonleague games against Murray State, East Tennessee State, Toledo and Fort Wayne.
The Titans will play 31 games in all, including their Horizon League schedule, Alexander said.