There’s something different about this college basketball season. Sure there have been plenty of upsets and dramatic ends to games, along with great performances by players and off-the-court headlines galore, but one thing really sticks out. Missouri and Kansas aren’t playing this year. There will be no Border War in the near future.
Although we’ve known this would happen since Missouri announced its intentions to leave the Big XII Conference and Kansas, mainly Head Coach Bill Self, replied by announcing they wouldn’t continue play with the Tigers, it’s just now sinking in. There won’t be any Marcus Denmon heroics or 19-point comebacks by those Jayhawks this year. The only chance these two will meet would be in the NCAA Tournament (which isn’t too far fetched).
The thing that I don’t understand is when Missouri left to join the Southeastern Conference, Self and Kansas said they had no interest in playing any school that wanted to leave the Big XII; however, Kansas already began a home-and-home series with the University of Colorado (who left the Big XII for the Pac-12 two years ago) and there have already been discussions between Kansas and the University of Nebraska in creating a similar deal. And I didn’t think Bill Self could actually be this dimwitted.
As I said in my blog last year, the University of Kansas and its supporters will do just about whatever Bill Self says. The man has had tremendous success at the University, including eight conference championships and a national title in 2008. But it is just a shame to me that one of the best rivalries in all of sports, professional or collegiate, has to end because of one man.
The rivalry in football was almost dead even in the series before Missouri took a one game lead in the last meeting between the two in 2011. In hindsight, if Missouri had scheduled Kansas for a non-conference game instead of Syracuse, they could have been bowl eligible. Kansas, on the other hand, would have just been aiming for a second win on the season.
But football isn’t where this rivalry is so great. Basketball is what makes the Border War one of the greatest and oldest rivalries in the NCAA. With legends like Phog Allen and Norm Stewart, tons of NBA talent from Kansas and teams from Missouri that didn’t boast a single future pro that could still upset the interstate rivals, this rivalry was awesome.
Fans of both sides will always talk about how unintelligent or annoying the fans of the other school might be; but this rivalry and its roots are both historic and heated. There aren’t any other match-ups in sports that involve two states that actually fought a war against each other that come to mind. Anywhere else in the country, William Quantrill is just a name in the history book. In Missouri, he’s a legend; and in Kansas, he’s the devil.
In the 2011-12 season, I had the opportunity to attend the Border War game in Columbia. Knowing that this might be the last time the two ever meet there, I had to go. It was my first Border War game of any sport, but I can promise you the energy from the fans inside Mizzou Arena that night was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. Any member of the NCAA tournament committee would love to pit these two in the same region of the bracket, but fans could only get so lucky to see the Jayhawks and Tigers square off on the hardwood any time soon.
Players, coaches, students, alumni and fans LIVE for this rivalry. It’s just a shame that the rivalry can’t live on.