Commentary

Is this the end of Kansas-Missouri?

Originally Published: November 6, 2011
By Jason King | ESPN.com

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The University of Kansas used the school's official Twitter account Sunday to react to news that nemesis Missouri had left the Big 12 to join the SEC.

"Missouri forfeits a century-old rivalry. We win," read a tweet from @KUNews.

[+] EnlargeTyshawn Taylor
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerKansas and Missouri have squared off 265 times in men's basketball. How many more will there be?

The statement couldn't have been more childish and petty -- especially considering it came from university brass.

It was also completely inaccurate.

Kansas isn't gaining anything by Missouri's leaving the Big 12. The Jayhawks and their fans aren't the "winners" here. They're the losers -- right along with the Tigers and anyone else who has followed one of the longest feuds in all of college sports.

After 104 years and 265 games, the Kansas-Mizzou basketball rivalry is dead, folks. And it's not coming back. At least not any time soon.

Although Missouri officials would like to continue to play the Jayhawks in a nonconference game each season, Kansas coach Bill Self and athletic director Sheahon Zenger have indicated they don't have any intentions of scheduling such a matchup.

"I'm not going to make a commitment now that we'd ever play them again," Self said last month. "I'm not saying we won't. But I'm certainly not going to pretend that we would."

It's tough to blame Self for not wanting to continue the series with the Tigers. The way Kansas sees it, Missouri put the Jayhawks and other Big 12 schools in jeopardy by backing out of their commitment to remain in the league.

"We're sorry to see a century-old conference rivalry end," KU chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said in a statement Sunday. "Missouri's decision may have implications for fans and for the Kansas City area, but it won't affect the long-term strength of the Big 12."

Indeed, the conference was able to replace the Tigers and Texas A&M with West Virginia and TCU. If the Big 12 would've folded, however, Kansas might have ended up in a less desirable conference. Think the Jayhawks are hacked off now? Imagine if that would've happened.

So instead of taking out their frustrations on the basketball court in a yearly game at Kansas City's Sprint Center, the Jayhawks figure that a better way to exact revenge on the Tigers is by not playing them at all. If it happens, the decision certainly wouldn't cause Kansas to take a financial hit. Self's squad will draw sellout crowds whether it's playing Missouri or Florida International.

And even though most KU fans probably would like to see the two programs continue a rivalry that began in 1907, they're so smitten with Self that they'll support any decision he makes without much criticism. So don't expect much backlash.

Still, anyone on either side of the feud had to have had an empty feeling in his stomach when Missouri's move became official Sunday. In a strange way, I'm one of those people.

Way before I became a national college basketball reporter, I covered the Jayhawks for seven years for The Kansas City Star. I've seen North Carolina play Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium and have been on press row for showdowns between Kentucky and Louisville and Michigan and Michigan State. Never, though, have I sensed as much hatred between two schools as what exists when Kansas plays Missouri.

[+] EnlargeKansas Fans
AP Photo/Charlie RiedelKU fans can dismiss Mizzou all they want, but the rivalry has meant a lot to both schools.

I saw a fan spit on a Kansas player years ago at the Hearnes Center and remember vulgar signs being confiscated by ushers at Allen Fieldhouse. I know of friendships that have been ruined because of the Border Showdown and have seen fistfights break out in sports bars when friendly, innocent debates about the two programs turned violent.

Also, you rarely hear about women's basketball teams getting into brawls, but that's exactly what happened in Columbia after a player lipped off in the postgame handshake line in 2004.

As negative as those events may have been, they heightened the intensity of the rivalry and helped make Kansas City -- home to thousands of alumni from each school -- one of the nation's top hotbeds for college basketball.

With Missouri headed to the SEC, I can't help but wonder whether that will continue. There is a fear that K.C. will lose the Big 12 tournament, and the interest in Missouri basketball in the area certainly will wane.

It's all such a shame.

The Tigers will do fine in the SEC, and Kansas will continue to be one of the top basketball programs in the country.

Still, without each other, basketball in these parts would never feel quite the same.

Jason King covers college basketball for ESPN.com. The Dallas native lives in Overland Park, Kan.