Out with the old...

This weekend, the landscape of college sports shifted - and settled, for the time being - when Missouri and Texas A&M left for the SEC, while TCU and West Virginia stepped in to fill their void in the Big 12. And honestly, in the grand scheme of things, most casual fans probably won't notice much difference. But the Jayhawks and Tigers will - even if it takes a few years.

Well, it happened.

Sunday, the cord between the universities of Kansas and Missouri - one which represented one of the oldest rivalries in all of college sports - was at long last severed. And you know what's maybe the most interesting development to come from it?

Everyone survived.

It was out with the old and in with the new for both the Big 12 and the SEC this weekend. As Missouri and Texas A&M were fulfilling the dreams of their own fanbases by leaving for the SEC, TCU and West Virginia waltzed through the open door and set up shop in the Big 12.

A year ago, the thought of losing the Aggies and the Tigers would have been seen as a potential death knell for the Big 12, around whom vultures had already been circling for months. But fast action by interim Big 12 commissioner Chuck Neinas brought the Horned Frogs and Mountaineers into the fold.

Suddenly, the Big 12 was more stable than it has ever been. A conference that includes two new perennial Top 25 programs to go along with Oklahoma, Texas and Oklahoma State, as well as rising programs fresh off success such as Baylor and Kansas State? That's tough. That's really, really tough - perhaps second only to the SEC.

As a result, Sunday's changes didn't really draw much attention on a national level. Why? Because the Big 12 and SEC have solid spots for them at the grown-ups table no matter what else happens. For weeks now the conversations have shifted to which teams from the ACC - the new conference on the chopping block - could potentially find homes elsewhere should the league collapse.

But it should matter to Kansas fans, at least a little bit. Because the death of the Border War means something.

Right now, most Jayhawks are professing glee over the stain of the Tigers being wiped clean from the conference roster - embittered by a protracted PR battle between the two schools in the Kansas City media and countless furiously-typed harsh words on message boards.

And truthfully, from a Kansas perspective, Jayhawks fans are probably entitled to some of that glee. They went out with the last laugh - after an epic overtime victory in the final iteration of the Border War at Allen Fieldhouse. Oh, and there was the matter of Kansas making the national championship game a few weeks after No. 2 seed Missouri was upset in shocking fashion by No. 15 seed Norfolk State in the first round of the Big Dance.

In the wake of the battle in Lawrence, Kan., several members of the national media took notice of the rivalry, and lamented its cessation on the grounds that such connections are what help to make college sports great.

Missouri has repeatedly stated its desire - to anyone who would listen - to continue to play Kansas and keep that proud tradition alive. The writers followed suit, calling upon the Jayhawks to be the bigger men and play the Tigers when no tangible reason to do so existed.

But that's what this whole mess was about from the start, wasn't it? Tangible benefits, be they security in a stable conference, the ability to remove oneself from the shadow of a hated rival (we're looking at you, Texas A&M) and, of course, the almighty dollar. Such sentiments are what fuel conference realignment.

It makes sense the Tigers would lobby publicly for the rivalry to continue because they stand to lose nothing and gain everything in the scenario. Kansas City-based fans who may have felt jilted by the eastern relocation of the Missouri power-base would be placated, and the Tigers would maintain a recruiting presence in the area - an area from which they have drawn heavily in both basketball and football in recent years.

But the Jayhawks risk much more. Not only would it be a public slap in the face to their own conference, by playing a former member, but they have a chance to secure further dominance of the metro market. The financial payoff for an event-style game, such as the one played annually until recently at Arrowhead, would be negligible. And the Tigers aren't high-profile enough for the game to garner a national television audience in either revenue sport based on the merits of the rivalry alone. Fans of both programs may understand how deep the hatred has run between the two schools practically since the Civil War, but in the eyes of the nation the Border War doesn't have the appeal of Michigan/Ohio State, or Duke/North Carolina.

Thus, there is no tangible benefit for Kansas to continue this rivalry, no matter what Missouri or a few national media figures may say. By agreeing to play them in football, they give up a valuable non-conference football slot - slots which have become increasingly valuable since the Big 12 dropped to 10 teams. On the hoops side, they willingly allow the Tigers that foothold they desire rather than continuing to force them out the door in Kansas City.

All of which does nothing to change the fact that fans from both sides will miss this rivalry. It may take a few months, or years, but soon as the next generation of Jayhawks and Tigers grow up without understanding what the Border War used to be - what it meant to have a true, honest to God rival regardless of the quality of the two teams - they'll miss it.

The Big 12 will miss the Tigers far less - and the Aggies, too, for that matter. As has been repeated ad nauseum in recent years, realignment is about eyes - specifically eyes focused on television sets. And with a few constant exceptions - the Notre Dames of the world, for example - eyes are drawn to quality play.

In TCU and West Virginia, the Big 12 has upgraded considerably on the gridiron, as both programs have established themselves solidly as perennial residents of the Top 25 with multiple combined BCS appearances to their name. West Virginia has won three alone, most recently with a blowout victory over Clemson in the 2011 Orange Bowl, while TCU won the Rose Bowl in 2010.

Right now, it's the start of something new and exciting for Kansas and the Big 12. But once things have settled in and TCU and West Virginia feel like old vets rather than the new kids on the block in the league, Jayhawk Nation can be forgiven for feeling a twinge come October, and again come March.

Just because it had to end doesn't mean the Border War wasn't something special.


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