The Old Oaken Bucket Game is not the biggest rivalry in Kevin Wilson’s life. Neither was the Red River Rivalry between Oklahoma and Texas.
For Wilson, nothing comes close to Maiden vs. Bandys.
That’s the old high school showdown between Wilson’s alma mater, Maiden, and its chief rival located 10 miles away in Catawba, N.C.
“When I went to Oklahoma, one of our huge alumni guys … says, ‘You’ve never been a part of a game as big as Oklahoma-Texas,” Wilson recalled on his weekly radio show. “I said, ‘Yeah, I have. It’s the Maiden-Bandys game. It’s the biggest game ever.”
It’s good to have a blood rival. Wilson learned as much at a young age, when his high school coach in North Carolina approached the annual Maiden-Bandys rivalry as the most important game of the year. Now a sixth-year head coach at Indiana, Wilson takes a similar approach to preparing his players each year for the Boilermakers.
It was the same way when he was a walk-on offensive lineman at North Carolina, which considered Duke and NC State among its rivals. As an assistant at Miami Of Ohio, Wilson’s teams also enjoyed a rivalry with Cincinnati.
“Now, you’re at Indiana and IU and Purdue does not backseat those,” Wilson said. “We’re very, very blessed to have a great rival and a great rival game. My high school coach made such a big deal about the rival. The biggest game every year was my high school rival. It was huge. The other thing he made a big deal of was Thanksgiving, because when you can play football (around) Thanksgiving, it’s a pretty cool deal.”
Wilson allowed his Hoosiers to step away from their Bucket Game preparation on Wednesday evening and for much of Thursday before reporting back to Bloomington in time to practice Friday morning. Some players spend Thanksgiving with the families of their position coaches. Some players, mainly those who hail from the central area of the state, can go home to see their own families. Sometimes those local players bring out-of-state teammates along with them.
No one, however, is allowed to be alone.
Thursday night is reserved for Indiana’s annual family Turkey Bowl game for the children of Wilson’s assistants. Wilson said right guard Dan Feeney will oversee a team of kids against a group coached by senior defensive tackle Ralph Green III. Receivers Mitchell Paige and Ricky Jones will also have similar responsibilities.
“I love the fact that there will be a football flavor for our kids on Thanksgiving Day,” Wilson said.