Kansas University basketball coach Bill Self says he hopes the University of Missouri remains a proud member of the Big 12 Conference.
If the Tigers do decide to bolt for the SEC, however, they will do so aware there’s the chance they’ll never play KU in hoops in the regular season again.
“To me it’s a great rivalry, one of the best in college basketball without question, but I don’t think I would be interested in having a once a year game like I did when I was at Illinois, playing Missouri,” Self told the Journal-World on Tuesday night.
He was speaking after learning Missouri’s Board of Curators announced it has delegated power to MU chancellor Brady Deaton to explore options for future conference affiliation.
“I could probably change my mind (but) trust me, we would have no trouble finding another nonleague game to play. I love the rivalry (uninterrupted since 1907 with KU leading 171-94). Playing home and home in the league is great and all those things ... (but) I can’t imagine, why would we continue playing?
“If they choose to be somewhere other than with us and with the other schools that they’ve been a part of and could jeopardize the future of the other schools ... I’m not going to make a commitment now that we’d ever play again. I’m not saying we won’t. I’m certainly not going to pretend that we would.”
Self grew animated when it was suggested the media would likely ask for a continuation of the series with perhaps a once-a-year meeting between the Border War combatants in Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo.
“I’m not saying it would be bad or won’t be bad (playing once on neutral court). I will say this ... the media is not going to dictate who we play. I’ll dictate who we play as long as I’m coaching here,” Self said. “I have no ill will toward Missouri at all, but to do something at a time that could be so damaging and hurtful to a group, I can’t see us just taking it and forgetting. I think that would be something that’d be talked about with our administration and we’d make a decision that’s best for our place. They are making a decision that’s best for theirs. We’ll make a decision on a schedule that’s best for us.
“I am not going to schedule Missouri just to schedule Missouri. I’m going to schedule what’s best for us, period. That’s how it’s going to be.”
There’s already precedent for KU not going out of its way to schedule teams that flee the league.
“We’re not playing Nebraska,” Self said of the Huskers, who like Missouri, are within close geographic proximity to KU. “There are other schools we could certainly try to find games with. That will be sad for a lot of fans if it comes to that,” he added of the end of the KU-MU rivalry. “Hopefully it won’t. Hopefully they’ll want to stay and be part of the Big 12.”
Self stressed that any future scheduling decisions would be made after seeing “how our league plays out. Our league schedule will determine what we do nonconference. I don’t think we would feel we owe anybody or any other school in our league would feel we owe anybody anything that leave. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t continue a relationship. To think we HAVE to do it, there’s no ‘have to’ at all. Only way we do it is if it’s what’s best for us.
“We will do what’s best for us from a scheduling standpoint. And that will create absolutely no controversy at all.”
Self has no idea what would happen in KU’s other sports if the Tigers leave the league.
“I don’t know how the football program feels. I am not into scheduling (football). Unless it’s mandated from above, I want to play who I want to play,” he said. “I’m not saying it wouldn’t be them (Tigers), I’m certainly not. We can’t assume they’d play us.”
One thing is for sure ... “Of course I want them to stay. I want to play them twice a year in the league. They want to play us twice a year in the league. It’s great,” Self said.
"We value our longstanding conference rivalry with Missouri. We believe the midwest deserves a strong conference for student-athletes, fans and alumni, and it is our desire that Missouri stay committed - as Kansas is - to the Big 12 Conference." - Kansas athletic director Sheahon Zenger