The state’s flagship university resides in the Southeastern Conference, but Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said the Big 12 men’s basketball championship should remain in his state, in Kansas City.
“It’s a great place to hold the Big 12 Tournament,” Nixon told The Star.
The Big 12 is expected to announce sites for future tournaments later this week at its annual spring meetings in Dallas. Kansas City is among the bidding cities for the men’s and women’s basketball tournaments through 2020.
The Sprint Center has been the site of the men’s tournament since 2010 and in seven of the last eight years. It’s set to hold the 2016 event, which will mark the 20th Big 12 Tournament. After next year, 15 men’s basketball tournaments will have been played in Kansas City.
“You’ve got facilities that are second to none, and there is great tradition,” Nixon said. “Tradition matters in sports.
“Kansas City has been a great host, and if you’re a great host, you should be given the opportunity to remain a great host.”
The Big 12 has played three men’s tournaments at American Airlines Center in Dallas and two in the building known today as Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City.
The tournament has drawn capacity crowds — not just by tickets sold but by turnstile count — at the Sprint Center. It has helped that the closest schools to Kansas City have succeeded. Kansas has been the tournament’s top seed in the last six years at Sprint, and at least one of the four teams closest to Kansas City — Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri and Iowa State — has reached the final in each of those years.
But also in that span, Baylor and Texas are tied with Iowa State for the second-most victories, seven, behind Kansas’ 13.
The most impressive day of the tournament in Kansas City has been the one when games don’t play to a full house.
Since a 10-team format was introduced in 2013, the Sprint Center has been more than half filled on the first night, when the bottom four seeds meet. This year marked the first time a nearby school, Kansas State, played in that round.
As for playing the event outside of the Big 12 footprint, which happened when Missouri departed for the SEC after the 2011-12 academic year, the Big 12 reached the conclusion that it remained comfortable in Kansas City.
Bob Bowlsby had just become the league’s commissioner in 2012 when he announced the extension through 2016.
“This agreement solidifies the fact that Kansas City is Big 12 country,” Bowlsby said.
The Big 12 joined the Pac-12 as major conferences that played its tournament outside its borders. The Pac-12, without a team in Nevada, plays in Las Vegas. In 2018, the Big Ten, without a New York-based team, will play at Madison Square Garden.
Although Kansas City bid for the men’s and women’s tournaments to be played at the Sprint Center, it’s likely the events will remain in different cities. That’s been the case since 2013. The women have played recently in Oklahoma City and Dallas.
Other issues involving Big 12 business have been settled. There had been talk of a football championship game if the NCAA approves legislation allowing conferences with fewer than 10 teams to hold a title game. But Bowlsby, athletic directors and football coaches tapped the brakes on the discussion at a meeting in Phoenix earlier this month.
There, the conference settled the tie-breaker procedure, and the league will no longer recognize multiple conference champions. Had it been in effect last season, Baylor would have been the Big 12 football champion.