Kansas, Missouri end 120-year-old rivalry

The jovial Kansas fan decked out in school colors of red and

blue scooped a sizzling hamburger patty off the portable grill and

dropped it onto the plate of a smiling fellow dressed in Missouri

black and gold.

Apparently, passions have cooled over 120 years. Fistfights

broke out in the crowd in 1891 when Kansas and Missouri played

their first football game.

For the most part, good-natured jibes held sway during festive

tailgating on Saturday when they played their last.

”It’s a shame this rivalry has to end,” said 1976 Kansas grad

Steve Billings as he slipped another patty onto the grill. ”But

we’ll just continue to hope they lose in the SEC and we’ll continue

to build the Big 12.”

When Missouri rallied for a 24-10 victory before a sparse crowd

in Arrowhead Stadium, the nation’s second-oldest collegiate rivalry

– and one of the most unique – came to what many consider a sad

end.

The Tigers, who have shared a conference with Kansas since 1907,

are headed to the Southeastern Conference. They’ll likely make more

money and no longer worry about Texas or Oklahoma breaking up the

league and forcing them to go hat-in-hand to some other BCS

conference.

Kansas, without an invitation from another BCS conference when

the Big 12 seemed on the brink of extinction both this year and

last, is staying put.

Though things seem settled down now, the Jayhawks down the road

will still be subject to the whims of Big 12 powers Texas and

Oklahoma, not knowing the security that will soon belong to

Missouri.

That Missouri was willing to leave them in the lurch is one

reason Kansas has refused the Tigers’ offer to continue the rivalry

in Kansas City on a nonconference basis.

And that, to many Missourians, is one of the best things about

leaving.

They were wanted by another major conference, and Kansas was

not.

”Mizzou had to act in the best interests of Mizzou and that was

going to the SEC, financially and athletically,” Missouri fan

Michael Funk said.

”But (the Big 12) has some stability now and I think KU should

understand that.”

As inflamed as emotions have always been in these parts, fans

around the nation rarely paid much attention to Kansas-Missouri

games.

Unlike other long-running rivalries such as Alabama-Auburn and

Michigan-Ohio State, the Jayhawks and Tigers were rarely very

good.

But that doesn’t mean people are happy to see the long rivalry

end.

”If you’ve got a 120-year-old tree in your backyard, do you

chop it down and plant a sapling?” asked Amy Longstreet, a

lifelong Kansas fan.

Called for generations ”the Border War,” the Kansas-Missouri

rivalry actually did trace its roots to real bloodshed, the violent

border clashes between free state Kansas and slave state Missouri

in the 1850s and `60s.

Marauding bands from Kansas known as Jayhawkers would make raids

on towns in Missouri, which was protected by militia known as

Missouri Tigers. William Quantrill’s raiders murdered more than 100

men and burned Lawrence, Kan., to the ground in 1863. Before that,

a gang of Jayhawkers did the same to Oceola, Mo.

The ensuing football series was so bitter, the two sides do not

even agree on the overall record. Kansas claims victory in 1961

when it inflicted a loss that may have cost Missouri its only shot

at a national championship.

But Missouri claims victory because the Big Eight Conference

said the Jayhawks used an ineligible player and ordered a

forfeit.

Longtime Missouri basketball coach Norm Stewart would never let

his team stay in hotels on the Kansas side of the border.

Former Kansas football coach Don Fambrough used to pump up his

players the night before the Missouri game by telling them

Quantrill was a Missouri grad. He wasn’t. But the ploy never failed

to work the Jayhawks to a fever pitch.

One of the biggest slights Missouri had to endure at Kansas

hands came in 2007 when the Tigers, ranked No. 3 and unbeaten,

defeated No. 2 Kansas in an epic clash.

But through good politicking by then-Kansas athletic director

Lew Perkins, the Jayhawks wound up in the BCS Orange Bowl while

Missouri had to settle for the Cotton Bowl.

That’s one the Tigers have never forgotten. Just ask a famous

Missouri fan who popped into the press box at halftime

Saturday.

”Those were good games. Whether it was Missouri winning and

going to No. 1 or Kansas mistakenly going to the Orange Bowl,”

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said.