University of Kansas

KU leaders take swipes at Missouri on way out

LAWRENCE — Bobby Cave is a Kansas fan, which means that he enjoys nothing more than some good humor at the expense of the Missouri Tigers. Lately, like many Jayhawks, he's told his friends who support MU to enjoy going 2-10 in the Southeastern Conference. As a fan, he feels that kind of ribbing is his place.

But when Cave saw that the official Twitter feed of the University of Kansas' public affairs office (@KUNews) tweeted Sunday, "Missouri forfeits a century-old rivalry. We win," Cave was taken aback — along with many other KU fans.

"I thought it seemed a little childish and really spiteful," said Cave, a 35-year-old teacher who lives in Olathe. "You'd hope that the school that you love would be above the fray of that kind of thing. They had an opportunity to be above it and mature, and they didn't do that."

Kansas officials have been ramping up the good-riddance rhetoric for weeks now in preparation for Missouri's inevitable move to the SEC. They maintained that stance Sunday once the news became official, and the writing appears to on the wall in permanent black ink that the Border War rivalry will at least experience a cease-fire in the coming years.

Jack Martin, KU's director of strategic communications, said that the comments from Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, athletic director Sheahon Zenger and basketball coach Bill Self gave his office the confidence to fire off a tweet like Sunday's. Martin says that Todd Cohen, KU's director of university relations, penned the tweet that — as of Monday afternoon — had been "liked" more than 4,000 times on Facebook.

"It's a rivalry. You tweak your rival," Martin explained. "It was something that we thought our fans would enjoy seeing, frankly."

Many KU fans have appreciated the school's sentiment that it won't let Missouri force its hand into continuing the rivalry outside the Big 12 — a message expressed most boldly in Cohen's tweet.

"I thought that was pretty clever," said Chris Omland, a KU student who lives in Kansas City, Kan. "There isn't any rivalry in college sports bigger than the Border War, but if they're going to take it upon themselves to shun it by leaving, KU has no obligation to continue to play if they don't want to. KU's not going to do anything on MU's terms, and that kind of feeds into the rivalry a little bit more."

Kansas' decision to ignore Missouri's public invitation to play annually in Kansas City is being viewed as strong or weak depending on who's talking. Self, asked Monday to explain his comment to the Lawrence Journal-World on Sunday night that the majority of KU fans "don't give a flip" about playing Missouri, didn't back off his statement.

"I don't really talk to fans," Self said, "but the ones that have talked to me, they couldn't care less. Still, our fans aren't going to determine what we do. But Missouri's not going to determine what we do either. This isn't being critical. We wish them the best."

But then Self delivered another not-so-veiled shot at Missouri.

"There's no ill feelings about them leaving," Self said, "but this isn't Oklahoma or Texas leaving either, a school that could break the league up. I'm happy with our league. I wish they wanted to be a part of it, but I'm not gonna cry because they're leaving at all."

Kansas alum Sean Grube isn't crying either, but he disagrees with the notion that KU fans don't care about playing Missouri.

"When I was on campus," said Grube, a 2002 KU grad, "it was a special night when we play Missouri. Camping out, it was just a different environment. My freshman year we played UCLA, and that was nothing compared to when we played MU for Senior Night. I know feelings are hurt, but I'm not sure that's the best rationale to rob fans of that experience. It's like we're upset we weren't invited to the dance."

Now, Jayhawks everywhere will just have to wait and hope that the rivalry is renewed sometime in the future.

"I could actually see that happening," said Andy Lavin, a 2010 KU grad. "Finally, in five years, start it back up again. I definitely think that would add some more fire."