New Kansas AD Jeff Long addresses still-defunct KU-MU Border War
For the past seven years, after watching Missouri leave the Big 12 for the SEC, Kansas, as an unofficial athletic department policy, has been steadfastly against scheduling the rival Tigers for any regular season games in any sport.
But with recently hired athletic director Jeff Long now running things, might that stance change?
Long was asked that very question during a 30-minute phone conversation with the Journal-World on Thursday and although he did not shut the door on anything, it was clear that Long had not spent much time thinking about rekindling the rivalry with the Tigers.
“I’ll be candid,” Long began. “That’s not high on our priority list. As I walk in the door, there’s so much more to do. And I have to learn, from the Kansas perspective, the view of that rivalry. I would never make a decision about something as important and critical, in my mind, before I got to know the University of Kansas Jayhawk athletics type of perspective.”
As expected, Long, who will officially start at KU on Aug. 1, said he had not heard from anyone from Missouri regarding the rivalry but added that he imagined that people on both sides of the state line were discussing it somewhere.
“I’m sure it’s on Twitter,” he said. “But I haven’t had a chance to look at a whole lot of Twitter.”
Thursday’s phone call was not the first time Long addressed the KU-MU topic in the eight days since being named KU’s new AD. But it was the first time he offered any kind of indication about where he stood on the status of the rivalry.
It took Long less than four minutes during his introductory news conference on Wednesday to bring up the hot-button topic.
After spending nine years as the AD at Arkansas from 2008-17 — six of them while competing against Mizzou in the SEC — Long knows a thing or two about the Tigers. And he arrived in Lawrence well aware of the history of the KU-MU rivalry, even having a little fun with it while introducing his family.
After first recognizing his oldest daughter, Stephanie, who is in grad school at Arkansas, Long moved on to his other daughter, saying simply, “I’m also joined by my youngest daughter, Christina, who is an undergraduate journalism student. Now she attends a university in a bordering state and that’s where I’ll leave it.”
The room erupted in laughter and Long later was asked a little more about the dynamic of having his daughter attend a rival school.
“It started when I was at Arkansas and she was at Missouri,” Long explained. “You’ll find my youngest child has quite a personality and we get after each other pretty good, so there will be competition right here in the Long family between KU and Missouri, I guarantee you that.”
Despite now being in its seventh year of a hiatus that carries an unknown and open-ended time frame, the Border War rivalry has remained wildly popular in Lawrence and throughout the state, with Jayhawks everywhere continuing to drudge up anti-Mizzou jokes and comments at opportune times, getting particularly rowdy when the KU and MU softball and volleyball teams met in postseason play on a couple of occasions during the past seven years.
Last fall, just before the start of the 2017-18 college basketball season, KU and MU played an exhibition basketball game at Sprint Center to benefit hurricane relief charities, but even then there was no serious talk of renewing the rivalry that has been defunct since MU left the Big 12 for the SEC in July 2012.
KU basketball coach Bill Self has been a strong supporter of keeping the Tigers off of KU’s schedule and only agreed to the exhibition game because he believed it was a key factor in raising as much money as possible for the hurricane victims.
And former KU athletic director Sheahon Zenger was equally committed to the stance that the Jayhawks should not schedule the Tigers any time soon, a feeling that was universally supported throughout the KU athletic department.
It’s hard to imagine Long making any drastic moves to change that, at least initially. And it seems like a safe bet that the new KU AD will honor whatever the coaches in his department feel is best, regardless of what it might mean for the Long family rivalry.