Column by Austin Cannon
As a Missouri Tigers fan, I was sad to see the school move to the Southeastern Conference last year. That meant no more “Border War” games against the University of Kansas Jayhawks, next-door neighbor and most hated rival.
The Tigers and Jayhawks had played some truly classic games in the few years before Mizzou’s departure. The final two basketball games alone were enough to persuade me that realignment, even with all its promotional and monetary benefits, entirely was the wrong move.
I was further convinced when I watched the Tigers get slapped around by SEC football teams and then underperform in basketball, all without having the KU game to look forward to.
But it was fine because I go to Drake University, and the only rivalry that matters here is the one involving birds from Omaha.
That sure didn’t last long.
Creighton announced in March that it would move to the new-look, basketball-centered Big East conference. Its membership became official on July 1.
Deuces, Missouri Valley.
I realize the Drake/Creighton rivalry isn’t your standard Duke/UNC or Louisville/Kentucky, but they were still important games. I’ve heard (never seen, mind you) that the Creighton games filled the Knapp Center to near capacity.
Drake won its final home basketball game against Creighton on Jan. 23, 74-69. I remember sitting in my living room at home on Jan. 23, furiously refreshing Twitter to get score updates, caps lock tweeting in excitement and hating that I couldn’t be there in person.
That’s what rivalries do. They get even the most casual of sports fans involved. They make you care, sometimes too much. Most importantly, it unites the entire institution in pride when you win. Men’s basketball went 15-17 last year, but we beat nationally-ranked Creighton, and that’s something.
Now we don’t have that anymore. Creighton was the perfect rival, a similarly-sized private school located two hours away. It and Drake compete regularly for the preference of Midwest high school seniors. Creighton’s teams even wear the same colors as ours.
Kind of hard to replace, no?
Creighton’s departure doesn’t just leave Drake without a rival. It also leaves the MVC without one of its household names. I asked my friend Alex, a Mizzou student and above-average college basketball fan, how many MVC schools he could name. He did better than I think most people would, naming four schools along with Creighton.
Over the Doug McDermott years, Creighton was almost synonymous with Missouri Valley basketball nationally.
The Bluejays have spent most of the last two years in the AP Top-25. Granted, Wichita State’s recent run to the Final Four will help keep some national focus on the conference, but it could have been so much more if Creighton had stayed.
But at the same time, you can’t exactly criticize the move. Creighton moved to a conference where basketball is king. None of the schools in the “new” Big East play football. Basketball is the sport that will by far gain the most revenue. Not to mention, the Bluejays will get to play traditional powers like Georgetown and Villanova.
It makes perfect sense. I’m just sad to see them go.
Cannon is a sophomore news-Internet major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org