Could MU-KU exhibition lead to NCAA basketball schedule reforms?

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ST. LOUIS, MO- Count me among the legions of University of Missouri basketball fans thrilled to hear that the Tigers will square off against the Kansas Jayhawks on the basketball court next weekend, even if it is only for a men’s exhibition game. The rivalry, lost to the Tigers’ move to the SEC and further buried by hard feelings since then, needs to be brought back to life, for the good of both schools, and college sports.

I know these are special circumstances. Sam Mellinger of The Kansas City Star has laid out how this was Bill Self’s brainchild, even though he’s probably the biggest obstacle in the way of resuming the series.

I hope this game lights a spark under other schools and the NCAA.

Division I programs can’t play eachother in exhibition games under existing rules. Instead, they can hold up to two¬†“secret scrimmages” where the games are closed to the public and the media in lieu of playing a game open to the public against non-D1 teams. Beating up on a D2 or NAIA program doesn’t draw well at the gate, and isn’t a great barometer of your team’s progress either.

Here’s my solution: bring the scrimmages out of the shadows. Keep them as exhibitions. Donate proceeds to charity. Mizzou needs only to look at the goodwill generated from the Rally For Rhyan game as an example. In the time since I started writing this, word got out that Kansas State will play Missouri State in a charity game next weekend, with proceeds going to hurricane relief.

Fans yawn at the so-called “blood donor” games which litter the early season schedules of most major power conference schools. They’re a necessary evil for the smaller schools, who use the paydays gained from what is most often but not always a loss, to fund large chunks of their athletic department budgets. The large schools hope to load up early on wins ahead of tougher conference play so that come NCAA tourney selection time, they can point to a record with more than 20 wins.

As Mellinger pointed out, the NCAA’s blessing for allowing these hurricane games comes with a hitch…low expenses, no frills. MU and KU can bus to Kansas City, same with Missouri State and K-State’s travel arrangements.

Think about next year. Barring conflicts with actual regular season games, MU exhibitions against Wichita State, Missouri State, and dare I saw SLU seem at least plausible, don’t they?

And to think if it actually caught on, I’d have to thank Bill Self for it. I’m willing….how about it NCAA?