Let there be no confusion: if the Missouri/Kansas rivalry is to advance past this year, it will be through the grace of some benevolent god who maintains an interest in fierce collegiate rivalries.
And KU — alone — is to blame.
Missouri’s decision to accept an offer from a better and stabler conference has unambiguously embittered its chief rival. Bill Self crudely proffered that Kansas fans suddenly “don’t give a flip” about Missouri; Turner Gill has assured us that this Saturday’s match-up will be the finale of a rivalry that dates back to the 1890s, in spite of the fact that many of his players would like to keep the rivalry alive. The coaches’ talking points unsurprisingly mirror those of their boss: KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger issued the following statement the day MU announced its move to the SEC:
The University of Kansas can now focus on TCU, West Virginia University and the other members of the Big 12 Conference who choose to be with us.
Contrast that exquisitely spiteful viewpoint with Zenger’s counterpart, MU athletic director Mike Alden:
It is our hope and our intention that we have an opportunity to play against the University of Kansas for many years to come. I think that to suggest that conference affiliation be a requirement … I don’t know if that necessarily holds water.
The silliness of Zenger’s statement — as though TCU and WVU chose the Big 12 to be with Kansas, as though Kansas had been distracted by Mizzou’s move and could now “focus” on its new conference foes — is perfectly representative of the tone Kansas has taken up in the aftermath of Mizzou’s decision. Sensibility 1, Kansas 0.
But what’s driving Kansas’ unbearably bitter insistence that an historic rivalry end? We are forced to hypothesize, as no KU coach or administrator has offered much beyond this senseless Turner Gill comment:
I think it always needs to be played in the Big 12 Conference, and that’s where I think it all should be. That’s kind of my thoughts on it, and we’ll go from there. I think it’s because of the history that goes so long before being able to play in this game … I think because of the Midwest and the history of the two schools.
Gill’s incoherent syntax and illogical argument — Gill, 5-19 in two years at KU, seems to think himself a Big 12 historian — aside, there is no apparent reason for KU’s spite. MU has taken a step forward, becoming a member of perhaps the country’s most stable and successful athletic conference. Is Kansas … jealous? It seems a comically immature reason to end a rivalry that has roots in the Civil War, but, then, the comments made by Self, Gill and Zenger haven’t exactly intimated that we’re dealing with adults, here.
As I wrote last week, there is a precedent for non-conference rivalries. Kansas, for whatever asinine reason, doesn’t care. And it’s a damn shame. As conference realignment expands, the schools involved will be forced to make decisions regarding their schedules. MU has expressed an unreserved willingness to continue one of the country’s better rivalries; Kansas, in response, has whimpered and sniveled: We don’t care about Mizzou! We never cared about Mizzou! Good riddance, whatever, bye!
What kind of rival taps out like this? It’s pathetic. Self is pathetic. Gill is pathetic. Zenger is especially pathetic. How can anyone at Kansas act as though they wouldn’t have done the same, as though MU’s opportunity to better its athletic program was somehow a forfeiture of a century’s worth of memories and moments?
My Dad likes to use the phrase “anal-cranial inversion.” I like it, too. Like father, like son, I suppose.
It’s a perfect descriptor of Kansas’ current stance: Mizzou’s leaving? We don’t care. Why would we care? We’ve got TCU to worry about.
Anal. Cranial. Inversion.
It’s immature. It’s spiteful. It’s stupid. Worst, it’s inexplicable. Kansas’ administration is spitting on both its most-cherished rivalry and the KU fans that would like to see it continue, and there is no justification for it.
This is a rivalry worth preserving, but Kansas’ holier-than-thou, good-riddance BS is wearing awfully thin.
We’ll see if Zenger & co. wise up. If not, MU fans can rest easy. Someone forfeited this great rivalry, and it wasn’t the school in the SEC.