For the first time conference realignment is hitting truly close to home. It was announced today by the SEC that Missouri would become the 14th member institution beginning with the 2012-2013 academic calendar and while their are a few hurdles remaining this does seal the deal for the Tigers departure.
It's the latest in a series of moves over the past 36 months that is slowly deteriorating what has made college sports great for so long. Watching USC play Colorado on Friday night I couldn't help but think that Colorado has basically turned into the whipping boy of the Pac 12 and most of those schools have little to no respect for what the Buffaloes have been able to accomplish historically when they were a part of the Big 12.
Nebraska stepped on the field in the Big 10 with hopes of winning the league in their inaugural year and while they have been a solid addition to the league, a Northwestern upset over the weekend sure seems like an anticlimactic way to find yourself on the outside looking in when it comes to the BCS.
A&M has tossed aside an instate rivalry with Texas due to instability and apparent envy. The Big East is now a shell of it's former self on the basketball court and Boise State appears poised to join the league for football purposes and it's hard to say if most of those watching the sport on the East coast even know where Boise is.
That brings us to Missouri. First off let me just say that I don't blame Missouri and I won't sit here and call them selfish, misguided or any of those things. The recent changes and the direction of college athletics has forced EVERY institution to reevaluate their place and positioning while looking out for their best interests. That's what Missouri has done and that's what every school is doing. As a Kansas fan our best option has been tied to a strong and viable Big 12 conference but if our best option was to make a move elsewhere, I would full expect our University to make that decision.
Nonetheless the move will mean an end of an era. Growing up I was always a Kansas fan and I lived in Illinois so I learned to hate Missouri from both sides of the border. Now all that history is being tossed aside for television contracts and the current belief in college sports that something bigger and better is on the horizon.
I remember Derek Grimm, Jason Sutherland, Jevon Crudup, Anthony Peeler and many more great villains that made the rivalry so great on the basketball court during my youth. The rocking chair delivered to Norm Stewart on the court of Allen Fieldhouse after his retirement provided a brief truce between the two sides and I have since learned that I miss the days when Stormin Normin fielded a quality hard nosed opponent on the court year after year.
In football it's been a back and forth series with Missouri holding an edge for the moment but historically this game truly was the "throw the record out the window" type of effort. I remember sitting in Arrowhead in 2007 thinking that the rivalry was having its deserved moment in the spotlight. I followed that up with Reesing to Meier in 2008 and what was the greatest Kansas football game I've ever witnessed.
Kansas v Missouri was a rivalry with roots dating back to a time that none of us can remember outside of what we read and hear. Those stories and the belief by each side in a great evil across the border only adds to fuel to the fire that can't be created by a simple sporting event.
While we don't know the long term impact of the move it is assumed by both sides that this means the end at least temporarily. Without a conference affiliation forcing these two groups to get together and have it out, it might be some time before the two sides square off again. It's easy to say good riddance, so long or look at us, but at the end of the day the fans are losing out in this situation. For the first time the negative side of conference realignment is hitting Kansas City, Kansas, Missouri and everything that represented great rivalries in college sports in a very big way.
So long to our friends and/or enemies at Missouri. We'll see you a few more times over the next six months and then it's good bye. When I see you I'll still despise you, I'll cheer against you and never wish you well and I suspect you will do the same. But I will miss the experience, the stress and the ups and downs of what I considered one of the greatest rivalries in college sports. Sometimes in life you just need a worthy adversary.