What makes a good rivalry? I did an impromptu survey of friends around the country asking what they thought made up a good rivalry. The top three answers I got consistently among those I asked, all felt rivalries needed intense regional appeal…a long history…and a dislike among the fans and/or teams.
Sounds like a good mix for a typical Missouri-Kansas game. So, let’s break down what makes MU-KU a fierce rivalry to see if it stands the test.
A long history? Absolutely. The MU-KU football game is the 2nd longest rivalry in Division I football trailing Minnesota-Wisconsin. This will be the 119th game and it’s also the closest in terms of wins. In fact, this rivalry is so fierce, they even dispute the record. Mizzou claims they are up 55-44-9 in the series. It goes back to 1960 when Kansas beat #1 Missouri and it was later found that KU used an ineligible player. Mizzou claims they should be awarded the game, Kansas claims they did and always will deserve the win.
Here is a list of the top rivalries with the closest margins in record
Mizzou-Kansas 118 Missouri by 1 (55-54-9) Nov. 27th
Baylor-TCU 106 TCU by 1 (50-49-7) 2011
Auburn-Georgia 114 Auburn by 2 (54-52-8) 2011
Army-Navy 110 Navy by 5 (54-49-7) Dec. 11th
North Carolina-Virginia 115 UNC by 5 (58-53-4) 2011
Minnesota-Wisconsin 120 Minnesota by 6 (59-53-8) 2011
Stanford-California 113 Stanford by 10 (56-46-11) 2011
Oregon-Oregon State 113 Oregon by 11 (57-46-10) Dec. 4th
Dislike amongst the fans? For sure. Put a KU and MU fan in the room together and it won’t be long before one of them is making fun of the other’s program, opposing cheerleaders, education, etc. The hatred goes back to the Civil War.
Intense regional appeal? Eh, so-so. Look, no doubt it has a long history, it’s been a close record, and there have been memorable games, such as in 2007 with both teams playing each other for the opportunity to gain the number one ranking in the country. When Mizzou pulled off the win, they finally held something over the collective heads of KU football. However, just days later, Kansas fans rubbed it in when they were selected to the BCS Orange Bowl game while Missouri was relegated to the Cotton Bowl.
Some I talked with in particular about this rivalry, say it may mean more in basketball than football. As the teams get ready for this year’s Border Showdown, attendance is down 9% from last year’s game at Arrowhead Stadium which was not a sellout in 2009.
I think what makes a good rivalry is not the national exposure or attention the game can receive, but how much the fans get into the game. I look at the whole MU-KU dislike more across the board. I’m not sure much gets settled on the gridiron each season. If KU loses, they usually make a snide remark about basketball season being underway and their success on the hardwood. If MU loses, they usually just make fun of…Kansas as a whole.
To find out just how much this game means to the players, we talked to a few to get their thoughts.
Last year, when Missouri won on Grant Ressel’s last second field goal, I was on the field for the celebration and I remember hearing one Missouri senior (who won three of four games against KU) say to an assitant coach, “I’m so glad we won, I can’t stand those <expletives.>” Believe me, the game means something to the players.