October 05, 2011
Hours after Missouri's curators voted unanimously to consider leaving the Big 12 instead of making a longterm commitment to the league, Kansas coach Bill Self made it clear that the future of the Border War rivalry might be at stake.
Self told the Lawrence Journal-World that he may not agree to scheduling a once-a-year non-conference game against Missouri at the Sprint Center in Kansas City if the Tigers leave for the SEC. Kansas and Missouri have played at least twice a year every year since 1907 with the Jayhawks leading the series 171-94.
"To me it's a great rivalry, one of the best in college basketball without question, but I don't think I would be interested in having a once a year game like I did when I was at Illinois, playing Missouri," Self said.
"I could probably change my mind (but) trust me, we would have no trouble finding another nonleague game to play. I love the rivalry. Playing home and home in the league is great and all those things ... (but) I can't imagine, why would we continue playing?
"If they choose to be somewhere other than with us and with the other schools that they've been a part of and could jeopardize the future of the other schools ... I'm not going to make a commitment now that we'd ever play again. I'm not saying we won't. I'm certainly not going to pretend that we would."
Self's tone reflects Kansas' desperation to keep the Big 12 from disintegrating. It's entirely possible he's just posturing in hopes it will help sway public sentiment toward keeping Missouri in the Big 12, but the reality is that longstanding rivalries have vanished for far less worthwhile reasons than this.
If Missouri leaves, it reduces the Big 12 to eight members and leaves Kansas in a precarious situation. The Jayhawks would have to decide whether to remain committed to a weakened but likely revamped Big 12 or attempt to land an invitation from the already-reeling, geographically untenable Big East.
The decision for Missouri likely comes down to whether the stability and financial windfall of the SEC is worth the sacrifices the Tigers would have to make to get it.
Missouri would go from an upper-echelon Big 12 football program to one that would have to scratch and claw to finish in the middle of the pack of the SEC and would have virtually no shot at a BCS bid each year. Furthermore, the Tigers would have to give up most if not all of their traditional rivalries the same way Syracuse did last month when it announced it's leaving the Big East for the ACC.
College basketball would be better off if Missouri remained in the Big 12, but for the Tigers the allure of the SEC may be too great to pass up.