The T.S. Eliot-Approved Ending of the Mizzou-KU Border


The Border War logo from 2007, arguably the all-time highwater mark of the series.
  • The Border War logo from 2007, arguably the all-time highwater mark of the series.

This is the way the border war ends
This is the way the border war ends
This is the way the border war ends
Not with bang, but with a whimper.

Yep, Missouri and Kansas played what looks to be -- for now, at least -- the final edition of their Border War rivalry over the weekend. (And the rebranding as the Border Showdown hardly seems to matter now, so I'll call it a war if I feel like it.) It wasn't quite the apocalyptic showdown this season it has been at times over the years, as neither team has any real big bowl aspirations, and Kansas is, well, frankly, just awful. In fact, they were bad enough in 2011 it cost coach Turner Gill his job, as Gill was officially fired on Sunday. 

It also wasn't a particularly well-played game, to be honest. James Franklin showed the bad half of his Jekyll and Hyde act early on, but recovered well enough to get the comeback win. The Mizzou defense put the clamps on the Jayhawks in a big way, but it's tough to really tell how much of that was the Tiger D and how much was the Kansas O. 

All in all, it could have been a better sendoff. Still, it will be a damned shame if this does in fact prove to be the last time these two schools play. 

Mizzou is, of course, departing the Big XII for the greener (read: equitable), pastures of the SEC next year (probably; the Big XII is still trying to hold things up), and Kansas has publicly stated they have no intention of continuing this rivalry out of conference. The two schools do still have one year left on their current contract to play at Arrowhead Stadium, but the Jayhawks appear likely to back out of that. 

To me, the whole thing smacks of petulance and childishness on the part of Kansas. I understand they and the other Big XII schools are probably unhappy with the defection of Missouri and Texas A&M to the SEC, but the Border War game is arguably the high point of the football season for Kansas. Hell, it's one of the real high points for Missouri, as well, even though they've consistently been playing meaningful games pretty much every week for the past decade under Gary Pinkel

That's to say nothing of the financial windfall the game brings to the Kansas City area every year. It isn't quite the Super Bowl, sure, but having 30-40,000 fans of both teams coming into town isn't exactly pocket change, either. If I were in any sort of civic authority position in KC, I would be leaning as heavily as I could on the University of Kansas to keep the Border War going. Mizzou, too, though as of now they appear willing to keep the game going. 

Of course, it's easy to be gracious when you're the one walking out the door, so it's possible the Tigers are just paying lip service to the idea of keeping the rivalry alive in order to look better by comparison. I hope that's not the case, but we won't ever know unless the situation changes I suppose. 

I was sorely disappointed when Missouri and Illinois failed to continue playing their own neutral-site game here in St. Louis, and to see another juice game disappear off the Tigers' schedule is a real downer. I know it wouldn't have quite the same appeal as a late November showdown to close the season, but a non-conference September version of the Border War still sounds a whole lot better to me than the alternative. 

Mizzou-Kansas is the oldest college rivalry west of the Mississippi, and the second most-played in all of college football. If neither of those things are enough for someone to stand up and demand these schools keep it going, then I just don't know what would be. 

Regardless, though, Tiger fans can take solace in the knowledge their series with the Jayhawks now officially has Missouri on top. Before Saturday's game the series stood at 55-55-9 all time in the record books. Mizzou claimed it should have been 56-54-9 due to Kansas using an ineligible player to win in 1960, but the NCAA (and Kansas, unsurprisingly), disagreed. The official tally now stands at 56 wins for Missouri, 55 for Kansas, and 9 ties. 

It would be much better for all parties, I think, to see the Border War continue. But since that doesn't look to be in the cards, walking away a winner is a pretty nice consolation prize. 

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