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Jeff Eisenberg

Could Big Ten expansion kill off the Mizzou-KU rivalry?

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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As Missouri ponders the greater TV revenue it could rake in by bolting for the Big Ten, it's important that the school's brass takes the time to consider the major downside of such a move.

It could spell the end of the bitter yet beloved Border War rivalry with Kansas.

Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins told the Kansas City Star last week that a Missouri move to the Big Ten could halt the 119-year rivalry. Perkins wasn't ready to declare that the Jayhawks wouldn't schedule the Tigers in a non-conference football or basketball game, but he also wasn't willing to guarantee that it would happen either.

"If a school -- I'm not even talking about Missouri -- if a school in our conference doesn't want to participate in our conference," Perkins said, "it would be difficult to continue having an athletic relationship."

The potential sacrifice of the KU-Mizzou rivalry illustrates how the Big Ten's desire to turn college sports into a Wall Street-esque game of mergers and acquisitions could threaten some great traditional matchups for the sake of the almighty dollar. Nebraska leaves Oklahoma and Colorado behind in the Big 12 to start an annual football rivalry with Illinois? Yuck. Syracuse splits with Georgetown and UConn to face Iowa in hoops every February? Yuck squared.

It's certainly possible Missouri and Kansas could preserve their rivalry to an extent by playing an annual non-conference game every season in football and basketball the way Kentucky and Louisville do. Still, Perkins pointed out that onetime rivals UConn and Boston College have yet to play since the Eagles left the Big East for the ACC in 2005.

Missouri already wasn't thrilled with the Big 12 after being snubbed in the bowl pecking order the past few years, but the truth is the Big Ten's attraction for the Tigers is rooted in the conference's lucrative TV contract. Whereas Missouri gets $8.4 million in TV revenue from the Big 12, Big Ten schools get $20 million to $22 million.

You can't blame Missouri for wanting to increase its revenue streams, but can you put a price tag on a rivalry?

The Border War has been one of the country's preeminent, albeit nationally underrated college rivalries for decades. Let's hope it doesn't end in a sad ceasefire in the next few years.

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