Kansas coaches refocus rivalry from Missouri to Kansas State

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Ashleigh Lee/KANSAN
Athletics Director Sheahon Zenger said that Kansas must focus its attention to Kansas State since Missouri left the conference.

So this is life in the Border Cold War.

The cloud of black and yellow lifted from Lawrence only to reveal gray skies. No enemy to fight, just angry mobs with nothing to torch.

And looking to the west, citizens of Manhattan have never attempted a sneak attack on Lawrence.

Maybe that would spice up the Kansas-Kansas State rivalry, but it might be a tad dramatic. Instead, Kansas is left with the Little Apple and a daunting task: commit to a rivalry that has been one-sided since its inception.

Not that one institution has dominated the other, but one school only focused on its fellow in-state competitor while the other looked in the opposite direction for a challenge.

“Kansas has been Kansas State’s rival since I’ve been in the league,” baseball coach Ritch Price said. “Our rival has been Missouri. That’s now being refocused.”

Price echoes a re-dedication that has been the focus of Kansas’ athletics department since Missouri’s departure from the Big 12, and it’s one that began at the top.

“It started with Sheahon Zenger,” Price said of Kansas’ athletics director. “He has made it clear to everyone who coaches, regardless of the sport, that he’s going to start evaluating programs based on their success against Kansas State.”

When asked about this policy, Zenger said programs are evaluated on conference competition, not just defeating one school.

Either way, there’s a school 80 miles down the road that’s beginning to receive a lot more attention from Kansas fans. And while it has been more cordial in the past, Wildcat fans have become a new target for a fan base without a rival.

“I never felt that way against K-State,” men’s basketball coach Bill Self said of the Jayhawks’ animosity for Missouri. “I think this will turn a little bit to become more heated as we move forward.

For some Kansas programs, there won’t be much of a transition.

The volleyball teams at Kansas and K-State, for instance, boast many players from within the state. That adds to a match that Jayhawks coach Ray Bechard says has always been important to the team.

Web ZengerBechard says the familiarity of in-state players intensifies the drive to capture Kansas bragging rights.

But those other programs, the ones that recruit more out of state players, they’ll be at the center of a rivalry that has become more important with the absence of Missouri.

“You might have people that go to a contest not because of the game but because it’s K-State,” Kansas women’s basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson said. “Maybe they’re not a particular fan of any given sport, but they’re a fan of booing K-State.”

Maybe, but maybe not. Zenger said the Missouri and K-State rivalries have different geneses. Over time, they have evolved in different ways.

Price will be combating that by coaching his players to bring the level of competitiveness the Jayhawks show against Missouri to all games against K-State. Price knows that you can’t replace Missouri, yet he can change the way Jayhawk fans look at K-State.

“When you’ve coached at KU, regardless of the sport, for 100 years the rivalry has been first and foremost about Missouri.” Price said. “Now that they’ve left the Big 12 conference, I think you’ll see the rivalry between KU and K-State intensify.”

It might take a while to get used to, but purple is the new black.

Blake is a senior from Chicago, Ill., studying journalism on the news and information track. Read more from .

  • Updated Jan. 24, 2013 at 10:56 am
  • Edited by Hayley Jozwiak
  • http://www.facebook.com/jhawkgal4 Mallory Rempp

    Regardless of the conference that Mizzou is in, I still watch their games, and I still root against them. I find it hard to believe that will ever change. K-State is always second to that hatred. And I can’t help but think that will never change, either.
    I suppose we’ll see.