Ashley was behind the bar at Willies talking to the after-lunch crowd, Robert and Bob, nursing lagers when an inquisitor interrupted. Whose flags will fly in Willies next March when the Big 12 Tournament comes to town without the bars favorite team, Missouri?Would Wildcats, Cowboys even Mountaineers pack the establishment a block from Sprint Center on Big 12 game days, or would Tigers retain emotional ownership and make that something of a Southeastern Conference Tournament watching headquarters?Good question, they agreed. Maybe a bit of both, and a way for fans of Mizzou and Kansas to carry on the rivalry, if not in the arena or on a field but by trading insults on the sidewalk along Grand Ave.But a developing rivalry that doesnt serve Kansas Citys interests pits the Big 12 and Missouri against each other.Its been going on for months, with bitter feelings on both sides. No need to rehash why the Tigers left for the Southeastern Conference or how the Big 12 tried to delay the Tigers move by a year.The result wasnt positive for Kansas City the Big 12 Tournament loses an enthusiastic fan base, and a Border War football game got wiped off the schedule. But, and this is the most important thing, all schools are part of financially healthy conferences. None fret the future, and that wasnt the case in recent years.Still, as the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference annual meetings ran concurrently last week, the league and school slung indirect arrows at each other.The SEC looks ahead, Tigers athletic director Mike Alden said, and Im not used to that. Were used to being in a reactive mode versus being in a proactive mode.With four schools leaving in a 17-month period, theres no debating the perception of Big 12 dysfunction, just as there can be no question the conference is on firm footing today after its expansion, new television deals, the announcement of the Champions Bowl and the hiring of new commissioner Bob Bowlsby.It was that Big 12, the solid ground conference meeting in Kansas City this week, that privately was irritated by Aldens comments.By the end of the week, the Big 12 returned the volley at the news conference to announce a two-year tack on to the mens conference tournament at Sprint Center. KU chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little claimed Kansas City as a Big 12 city, followed by this from acting Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas: Just remember the first part of the citys name is Kansas.The louder message came in writing, a provision in the tournament extension that allows the Big 12 first rights to championship dates at Sprint Center beyond 2016. That message was directed toward one conference, and its not the Pac-12.Kansas City has been mentioned as a possible destination for the SEC Tournament in 2017 or 2018, and the Big 12 wants to keep it out.The nature of the two tournaments should make it a moot point. By 2016, the Big 12 will have been in Kansas City for seven straight and 15 of the 20 years of the leagues existence. The SEC event tends to hop around. Its been in four different cities in the past four years, although it will be in Nashville three of the next four.Oklahoma City and Dallas have expressed Big 12 hoops interest, but unrivaled support is why the tournament works best and should remain in Kansas City beyond 2016. Look no further than the Wednesday night in March, the opening round of the tournament when the participants were Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, Texas A&M and Texas Tech. None of the schools brought a large traveling party, but some 10,000 clicked the Sprint turnstiles.With Cowboys Stadium prominently mentioned as a site for future postseason football inventory, the football in the Big 12 South and basketball in North balancing act rationale is back in play.The Big 12 has to be Kansas Citys priority for basketball tournaments. Its the history, the guaranteed revenue generator. Kansas success three titles in four Sprint Center tournaments drives the engine, and support from the Jayhawks, Kansas State and Iowa State will never be more important going forward.But while the Big 12 can fence out the SEC, Kansas City cant stiff-arm Missouri. Why would it want to? Basketball at Sprint Center, football at Arrowhead, the Tigers should be encouraged to bring events to the states second largest metropolitan area. Mizzou changed its Big 12, not Kansas City identity.The Big 12 and Missouri dont need each other, but they need to recognize that Kansas City and Willies is better off with both of them.
Posted on Sat, Jun. 02, 2012 09:06 PMShare Email Print Order Reprints
Blair Kerkhoff | Big 12-MU spat doesnt help KC
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