KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Welcome to the Big Doughnut Hole.
This used to be the center of the college universe. At least one of them. This city still has hosted more Final Fours (10) than any other. It's a Chiefs town first and a Jayhawks town second. Most of all, it's a melting pot with a sizable amount of Iowa State, Nebraska, Missouri alums here as well.
We have the NFL and Major League baseball (barely) but it's a college town more than anything. A better college town than New York or L.A. We are connected by our teams and events. They give us our sense of self.
The annual Big 12 basketball tournament is a gathering place to drink, gossip and people watch. The Missouri-Kansas football game at Arrowhead is an event that traces its roots back to the Civil War. Kansas, and all its basketball history, is 40 miles away. Bill Snyder is still working miracles down the road at Kansas State.
But with Missouri declaring its intentions to look around on Monday night, suddenly there is no center here. Just a big hole where that gathering place used to be. You can feel it. To the right of us, probably soon, will be the SEC (Missouri); a short three-hour drive to the north of us is the Big Ten (Nebraska). To our left will be what's left of the Big 12 (Kansas and Kansas State).
Kansas City could become a great staging area for GameDay's equipment semis in the Midwest, but for the actual college experience, it's slipping away. The Big 12 tournament is now in danger. It will continue, somewhere. But it has to be hard to anchor a conference tournament in a state where the league has no teams.
The Kansas-Missouri rivalry is now in danger too. That's another shame. After the Iron Bowl and the Red River Rivalry, it is the best.
A few years ago, they moved MU-KU football to Arrowhead Stadium and it became a spectacle. In 2007, No. 2 Kansas lost to No. 3 Missouri and the Tigers became No. 1. ABC/ESPN still counts the game among its most highly-rated in history.
But like that Wicked Witch, it's all melting away. I know this because Bill Self didn't hold back Tuesday when Missouri declared its intentions.
Kansas' basketball coach told the Lawrence Journal-World that the MU-KU series may be over.
" ... I don't think I would be interested in having a once-a-year game like I did when I was at Illinois, playing Missouri," Self said. "I could probably change my mind (but) trust me, we would have no trouble finding a non-league game to play.
"I love the rivalry .. but I can't imagine why would we continue playing?"
Which is sad because the basketball series goes back to 1907. The football series goes back to the 1890s. Kansas, like a lot of folks in Kansas City and the Big 12, are upset at Missouri. By taking its ball to the SEC, it would be impacting that Big 12 tournament. It would damage the Kansas rivalry.
Point being: Why put money in Missouri's pocket by playing a non-conference game?
"I have no ill will toward Missouri at all," Self said, "but to do something at a time that could be so damaging and hurtful to a group, I can't see us just taking it and forgetting ."
If this is truly the end , then someone may want to hire extra security for what could be the final regular-season Border War game in history -- Feb. 25 in Lawrence. Forget the fans for a moment, there are scores of sportswriters who would shed tears over the end of this epic rivalry.
We are losing that sense of self here in Cowtown. Clearly, Missouri administrators don't care. The SEC doesn't care. The networks will continue to televise games. They don't care.
Conference realignment goes on unabated. Traditional rivalries are being cut down like rainforests. Our natural habitat is being destroyed. Is this a good thing for college athletics? No, that's not really the point.
Interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas called modern conferences "scheduling opportunities" and "amalgamations". I called them "content farms."
Now it's hitting home. It would suck to be a doughnut hole.