If Missouri leaves Big 12, future of Kansas rivalry foggy at best

The question remains unanswered of what would happen to the Missouri-Kansas rivalry if Missouri leaves the Big 12 conference for the SEC, which after Tuesday’s Board of Curators meeting is likely.

Athletic Director Sheahon Zenger and other athletic department officials would not comment on the future of the Border Showdown, spokesman Jim Marchiony said on Wednesday.

“This is not an appropriate time,” Marchiony said. “We are not going to discuss a hypothetical.”

Yet that was exactly what KU basketball coach Bill Self did on Tuesday night. Self told the Lawrence Journal-World that he would not feel the need to play Missouri in a non-conference game every year.

“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.

Self seemed to have diarrhea of the mouth Tuesday night. He talked at lengths about not letting the media dictate the continuation of the rivalry, and he pointed out that KU did not continue scheduling games against Nebraska after that school left the Big 12 last year.

Nebraska and Kansas don’t share the same history as Missouri and Kansas. But Self said there were “other teams we could certainly try to find games with.”

“I am not going to schedule Missouri just to schedule Missouri,” he said. “I’m going to schedule what’s best for us, period. That’s how it’s going to be.”

Self said he understood many fans would be “sad” if the rivalry ended. He left saving it to Missouri, saying, “Hopefully they’ll want to stay and be part of the Big 12.”

“I have no ill will toward Missouri at all, but to do something at a time that could be so damaging and hurtful to a group, I can’t see us just taking it and forgetting.”

As for Zenger, he released a statement Tuesday night that encouraged Missouri to remain in Big 12 conference for the sake of the rivalry.

“We value our longstanding conference rivalry with Missouri,” he said. “We believe the midwest deserves a strong conference for student-athletes, fans and alumni, and it is our desire that Missouri will stay committed – as Kansas is – to the Big 12 Conference.”

Kansas leads the all-time basketball series 171-94. Depending on who you ask, the football series either favors Missouri 56-54-9 or is tied 55-55-9. The old Big 8 conference retroactively forfeited the the 1960 game to Missouri because a Kansas player was determined ineligible following the 1960 season.

The football rivalry is the second-most played game in Division I, after Wisconsin in Minnesota, which edges it out by a game.

If Missouri went to the SEC and did not continue playing Kansas, who would become its rival? Most likely Arkansas, especially in the near future with former basketball coach Mike Anderson now coaching in Fayetteville.

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