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KU tops MU in the Showdown for Relief in KC

MU's Jeremiah Tilmon goes up for a shot while KU's Mitch Lightfoot defends during the KU vs MU charity Showdown for Relief basketball game on Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017, at the Sprint Center in Kansas City. KU won 93-87. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

COLUMBIA, Mo. - The Border War is back on. The Missouri and Kansas men’s basketball teams have agreed to revive their series that’s been dormant since Mizzou left the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference seven years ago. The longtime rivals announced Monday they'll launch a six-year series next season with games in Kansas City, Columbia, Mo., and Lawrence, Kan.

The first meeting is scheduled for Dec. 12, 2020 at Kansas City’s Sprint Center with KU slated as the home team. The series will alternate between the two college campuses the following season with games set for Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence in 2021-22 and 2023-24 and Mizzou Arena in Columbia in 2022-23 and 2024-25. The six-year series will conclude back in Kansas City on Dec. 13, 2025 with Mizzou as the home team. The other dates have not been finalized. Financial terms for the series were not immediately available.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for both programs to bring back one of college basketball’s best rivalries,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said. “I’m excited for our guys, our University and our fans, and we look forward to the battles ahead.”

Kansas coach Bill Self said he's discussed renewing the series with KU athletics director Jeff Long and other KU coaches and "we all felt the timing is right to renew the rivalry," Self said.

“Even though we haven’t played the last few years, I know it was something our players and fans missed, and so did I," Self said. "The interest generated in the 2017 exhibition game was far greater than I envisioned it would be which made it obvious to me that our fans were eager to see a Border Showdown matchup."

“Having coached a lot of games vs. Missouri in my time here at Kansas, I could not be more excited to start this series up again. This is a great experience for all basketball fans and I look forward to the rivalry being reignited in Kansas City next season, and then bringing it back home to Allen Fieldhouse the following year.”

The Tigers and Jayhawks played in Kansas City on Oct. 22, 2017 in a charity exhibition game but have not played a regular-season game since Feb. 25, 2012, an 87-86 overtime victory for the Jayhawks in Lawrence. When next year's game tips off in Kansas City, 3,213 days will have passed since the teams last met in a regular-season game.

Since Mizzou's departure from the Big 12, Kansas has balked at scheduling contests against the Tigers in most sports, particularly men's basketball, with Self leading the resistance, at least on the public front.

How then did the series come back to life? The conversations started last summer when Missouri athletics director Jim Sterk called new Kansas athletics director Jeff Long to congratulate him on his hire, according to a source familiar with the process. Long had been the AD at Arkansas since 2008 and was obviously familiar with the Mizzou-Kansas rivalry. Sterk told Long he'd be open to discuss renewing the series once Long gets settled into his new role. The talks resurfaced this past summer and were put to paper when Sterk and Long recently met in Kansas City along with their top deputies to finalize the details. 

"The atmosphere at the Showdown for Relief exhibition in 2017 was incredible to be a part of,” Sterk said. “We’re excited to bring that back and officially renew a historic rivalry that people have tremendous passion for. It’s a rivalry that college basketball deserves, and we look forward to delivering that tradition to fans across the nation.

“Hopefully, this renewal on the hardwood will lead to more opportunities (to play Kansas) down the road in other sports, too. Rivalries make college sports great, and there is no question that when Missouri and Kansas face off in any sport, it’s important to a lot of people.”

“One of the best aspects of college athletics is rivalries, and we are thrilled that our fans and student-athletes will get to experience this Border Showdown rivalry once-again,” Long said. "We have quietly sought input from fans and supporters on the renewal of this series and we believe the overriding sentiments are that this historic rivalry should resume. While this series does not include each of our sports teams competing in the Border Showdown at this stage, we feel this is the first step to expanding it in the future. We are excited for this rivalry to begin anew next year and believe it will be great for all fans of college basketball.”

Just two years ago it seemed the ice would never thaw between the two programs, at least as long as Self was still coaching the Jayhawks.

“We’re going to do what’s best for us,” Self said after the charity exhibition game in Kansas City, an event that raised $2 million in hurricane relief efforts. “We’re not interested in doing what’s best for Missouri or best for Missouri fans. But if it’s best for us to play them, we will. It’s not a complicated deal. … I’m not going to say never. I don’t think that there’s been any change in position as far as the university goes. I’m the spokesman, I guess, on this. But trust me, I’m not the only one that feels that way. There was a very large contingent of KU people that wasn’t happy that we we’re doing this initially before they realized it was for a good cause.”

Martin has been open to playing the Jayhawks since the day he was hired, especially after coaching in the sold-out exhibition.

“Of course you want to play the game,” Martin said two years ago. “It’s a great program. Bill has done a tremendous job. Any time you win the (Big 12) 13 straight years, that’s impressive. Of course we’d love to play, but both sides need to agree on something like that. You saw the energy behind it. We’ll see.”

Kansas could be facing NCAA sanctions following an investigation into major violations, all stemming from corruption and bribery allegations that came out of the FBI's investigation into multiple college programs.

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