The last time I looked, many of us were bemoaning the fact that the loss of Missouri to the Southeastern Conference likely would lead to the Big 12 looking to some location other than Kansas City to stage its annual postseason basketball tournament.
That may still be the case, but that's not the worst of it. Apparently, Mizzou officials have been very active in pushing Kansas City as a future tournament site for the SEC basketball championship. What a turnaround that would be for a city that has long prided itself as the heart of Big 12 Country and the only major metropolitan area with three member schools within a 100-mile radius.
Missouri's departure from the Big 12 will leave the conference without a team in that state, which many believe will be all the reasoning Big 12 officials need to move the conference basketball championship to a sizeable arena in a state that does, like Texas (Dallas) and Oklahoma (Oklahoma City). What's really at issue here is the negative economic impact such a decision would have on Kansas City.
Kansas City has a long tradition of hosting the postseason tournament, both in the Big 12 era, which is now in its 16th year, and for the Big Eight Conference prior to that. And it's probably fair to say that more fans of the Kansas Jayhawks, and perhaps even Kansas State, reside in the Greater Kansas City area than those who support or are Missouri Tiger alums. This is more a function of geographic proximity than anything else, but the truth is, the Kansas City community has long embraced all three teams.
Unlike the conference's football and baseball championship tournaments, the SEC does rotate its annual basketball tournament. For example, the tournament will be hosted in New Orleans this season, Nashville will be the site next year and the tourney is scheduled for Atlanta in 2014. "We do have a history of moving the basketball tournament," said :Larry Templeton, head of the SEC team that is helping Missouri and Texas A&M in their transition to that conference.
Aside from its limited economic benefit, such a move would help Missouri maintain a basketball presence in Kansas City and surely would be heavily supported by Tiger fans in the area. I'm sorry, though, I can't get beyond viewing something like this as a giant kick in the groin for the city and the loyal Big 12 fans in this community. Notwithstanding the SEC's expansion into the state of Missouri, this side of the state is Big 12 Country. Like it or not, that's just the way it is and the changing times through so-called conference realignment are not about to alter that deep-seated culture here anytime soon.
The Big 12 needs to reconsider the silly rule, guideline, or whatever it is, that deems it inappropriate to hold a conference-sponsored event in a state in which there is no conference member. Regarding the Sprint Center in downtown Kansas City, Mo., where the Big 12 Basketball Championship is held when Kansas City is the venue, the arena is located just a couple of miles east of the Missouri-Kansas state line. The western side of that nearby geographic dividing line serves as home to not one, but two conference members, both with extremely strong ties to the Kansas City community, not to mention two of the strongest fan bases in the conference.
Honestly, it would be as simple as that. Look beyond the literal interpretation of the tournament site-selection rule and see things as they really are. Keep the Big 12 Tournament in Kansas City - at the very least on a regular rotational basis - and the SEC is likely to look to other site options and disregard Kansas City as a future conference tournament site.
That's the way it should be, and will be, as soon as the Big 12 can get beyond its shortsightedness.
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