It’s been five years since the University of Missouri’s athletic programs elected to leave the Big 12 Conference for the presumed greener pastures of the Southeastern Conference.
And in that time, we’ve heard from dozens of pro-Missouri folks, new and old, who have said that they would love nothing more than to see the revival of the Tigers’ Border War rivalry with the University of Kansas.
One problem: From day one, the powers that be at KU, from athletic director Sheahon Zenger and men’s basketball coach Bill Self to various other coaches and even a healthy faction of the KU fan base, have made it crystal clear that they have no desire to renew the rivalry.
The reason is simple. From KU’s perspective, it was Missouri that ended the Border War clash by choosing to leave the Big 12 for the SEC. And the Jayhawks feel no desire nor responsibility to take steps to fix what they believe was a Mizzou mistake.
However, a recent report from AL.com, which heavily covers the SEC, provided at least one viewpoint that zeroed in on a much more specific reason the rivalry has remained defunct.
“The problem was a man named Bill Self, who made it very clear this wasn't going to happen,” former Missouri chancellor R. Bowen Loftin told AL.com’s John Talty.
According to Talty’s report, published Wednesday at AL.com, Loftin and outgoing KU chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little met privately to discuss restarting the Border War at Arrowhead Stadium, which, Talty reported, would have been a lucrative move for both universities.
Obviously, bringing back the Border War never happened and the KU folks remain as committed to their stance today as ever before.
“Tell the ex-Missouri chancellor I coach basketball, not football, and that we would never play a game in Arrowhead or even discuss it. It’s too cold. We play our games indoors,” Self told the Journal-World Thursday when asked for a response to Loftin’s claims. “But I look forward to meeting him someday if he’s ever in Lawrence.”
Thursday’s episode of Border War Today was merely the latest in a long line of random references to the once-proud rivalry, known across the country until 2012 as the longest continuous rivalry west of the Mississippi River.
Whether it has come on the heels of hiring a new athletic director, a head coach coming or going or even a new radio personality landing in Kansas City, the topic has surfaced plenty of times during the past five years.
However, according to Zenger, it’s not one that deserves much attention today or any time in the near future.
“Our stance is the same,” Zenger told the Journal-World Thursday of KU’s strong and unified decision to keep from scheduling Missouri in any sport. “This is an institutional decision and has been from the very beginning.”
The end of the original Big 12 — Colorado, Nebraska and Texas A&M; also left the conference — brought with it the end of other storied and tradition-rich rivalries, including the powerful football clash between the UT and A&M; programs.
“I think it’s more likely Texas will bend than Kansas,” Loftin told Talty. “As long as Self is involved. He has a big ego.”