University of Kansas

KU’s Bill Self talks resumption of Border War: ‘You could say I got the 7-year itch’

The Border War is back … with the blessing of Bill Self.

“You could say I got the 7-year itch,” Self, Kansas’ 17th-year coach told The Star on Monday night after the shocking announcement was made that KU and Missouri, which last played a regular-season basketball game in 2012, had agreed to a six-game series starting in the 2020-21 season with a contest at the Sprint Center.

The next four games will alternate between Allen Fieldhouse and Mizzou Arena, dates to be announced, with the final game scheduled for Dec. 13, 2025 back at Sprint.

Self, who has been adamant about not wanting to play Missouri since the Tigers left the Big 12 for the SEC, was asked by The Star the question on everybody’s minds. That is … whose idea was this?

“I can’t speak to it positively with Missouri. I can speak it’s a combination of myself and Jeff (Long, KU athletic director) and also input from other coaches in our department. Not one person made this decision. We are all on the same page with this,” Self stated emphatically.

Self said he and Long have been talking about this for months. Self explained that Long is an AD who does communicate with his coaches via regularly scheduled meetings and the Border War resumption has been a topic at most Self-Long meetings.

“It is a subject talked about during our head coaches meetings and certainly one in which my stance has probably been softened some since playing the exhibition game and seeing the interest in how an event like that can sell out in 24 hours with all the money going to a great cause,” Self said.

KU played Missouri in an exhibition game in October 2017 in the Sprint Center. Proceeds went to hurricane relief.

“The combination of those two things and also the scheduling opportunity,” Self told The Star. “If we are going to play six guarantee games a year, that leaves you limited opportunities to schedule other games where many of them are scheduled for you. An exempt tournament would be three (games), the Champions Classic four, the SEC/Big 12 Challenge five (as well as game against Big East team) then you have one home and away scheduled. We had an opening next year.”

Self added that, “this is something I felt we’d do eventually. This is the best opportunity to do it.”

He stressed that: “We’d been kicking it around for months. It got finalized and the athletic directors met this afternoon and talked it out and came to an agreement this is best for both universities.”

Self reminded The Star that despite being adamant about not playing MU since the Tigers left the league, “I never said we’d never do it. There’s been some time that’s passed. Missouri made the decision that was in the best interest of their school at the time. We made the decision in our best interest at the time. I see it as a positive.”

Self said a lot of people missed the rivalry games.

“I do know this,” he said, “my players that have experienced the rivalry and coaches that experienced the rivalry missed the rivalry. I’m sure Missouri players and coaches felt the same way. Our current players of course haven’t been part of the rivalry. It won’t take long for all parties to be sold on the intensity and the importance of playing well against our bordering university.

“I am excited about it. I think it’s just good for us. We did it because it’s good for Kansas. I do believe both schools will benefit.”

Self said the series is good for the athletes who play the sport.

“Look at the interest level,” he said. “These are games players look forward to playing. I think it’s good. If OU and Texas switched leagues and quit playing I’d hope the football game would still exist. One thing is players and coaches like to play in games that matter. To me this is one of the premier games.”

Self said he hasn’t spoken to Tigers coach Cuonzo Martin anyone at Missouri about resumption of the series.

“Though I have a great relationship with Cuonzo as well as all of Missouri’s coaches since I’ve been at KU,” Self said. “Us not playing was not a reflection of our personal differences. Hey, they did what they wanted to do; we did what we wanted to do. Jeff and I going as far back as mid summer, we thought this might be something good for Kansas.”

Asked if he was “juiced” about playing MU again, Self said: “Right now I’m juiced about playing Duke (in the season opener). I am sure we will circle this game on the schedule every year moving forward. You like doing that, having games like this on your nonconference schedule.”

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Gary Bedore covers all aspects of Kansas basketball for The Star — the current team as well as former players and coaches and recruiting. He attended KU and was born and raised in Chicago, as well as Lisle, Ill.