Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Conference Hokey-Pokey™: What about Kansas?

In all the hoopla and hypotheticals and hysteria over the impending doom of conference realignment, one thing that keeps getting shoved to the side is the relationship between Mizzou and Kansas.

The Border War. The Border Showdown. The Border Hoe-Down. Whatever they're calling it these days.

The MU-KU rivalry ranks right up there with the other great sports rivalries. UND-Duke. Michigan-Ohio State. Yankees-Red Sox. Cards-Cubs. Kewpies-Jays. (I threw that last one in for Larry.)

In all this conference realignment talk, some scenarios have KU going with the Pac-16 while MU goes with the SEC or Big Ten. Nobody seems to think the Big Ten or SEC would want Kansas. KU's football program seems to be the drawback to their attractiveness to a potential new conference, even though they have one of the premier basketball draws in the NCAA (as much as it pains me to admit it).

Mizzou fans' reactions to the possibility of MU and KU being split to different conferences have tended to run along two lines, with a minority third:
  • "I hate Kansas! I hope they get left out in the cold!" This is an understandable reaction. MU fans hatred for the Jayhawks can be pretty extreme sometimes. But I think we'd miss having them to around to despise.

  • "We can still schedule plenty of non-conference games with KU!" This is true, although logistically something will get in the way eventually. If the Jayhawk football program doesn't improve, scheduling them as a non-conference game won't help MU's ranking any. And I'm not sure how long the home-ad-away series would continue for basketball. And if you skip one year, the next year it's easier to skip. And so on.

  • "We have to stay with Kansas". I haven't heard this one much. It's surprising to me, since every time you read a mention of what Oklahoma plans to do, there's always another sentence tacked on: And wherever OU goes, they'll take OSU with them. I suppose MU doesn't have the clout of OU to make something like that happen. It certainly makes no sense to risk Mizzou's future by making any deal dependent on letting KU tag along. (Jayhawk fans would be incensed to think they need the Tigers to give them any help in this.)
Of course, here at SimmonsField.com, we always look at every question from the most important perspective: How will this affect MU Baseball?

Kansas is not currently and doesn't look like its's going to be a big powerhouse in NCAA Baseball. Adding them as a non-conference opponent each year is not going to drag down the RPI, and it's not going to help the RPI much.

But the annual MU-KU match at Kauffman Stadium and the every-other-year home-and away weekend series are both among the best audience draws both teams get each year. Continuing to schedule both of those annual match-ups as non-conference rivals would still be a good idea - much better than another midweek game against SIU-Edwardsville or a weekend series vs. another East Podunk State.

I'd have to put myself somewhere between response 2 and 3 above. Bringing along KU with us to a new conference cannot be a deal breaker. There are ways to maintain that rivalry out of conference. Other rivalries manage to do that (e.g., Notre Dame-USC).

But it would be a shame to not do what we can to keep the rivalry in conference. It adds an extra level of importance to the rivalry, beyond the need to destroy the hated Jayhawks.

Even if we end up in the Baseball Hell of the Big Ten, taking Kansas there with us would make it a little more bearable.

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