If you follow Hoops HD with any frequency, you know that I’m a puppet who loves whiskey, Playboy Magazine, college basketball, and frequently bemoans the fact that Kansas and Missouri no longer play. This drives my colleagues at Hoops HD crazy, which I see as being a huge bonus.
A few years ago, I was involved in a roundtable discussion about rivalries in American sports, and I was the only person who listed the Kansas v Missouri as the nation’s biggest rivalry. People thought I was crazy. I’m not saying they’re wrong about me being crazy (in fact, they’re probably right), but after I explained why I felt it was the biggest rivalry, some of them began to agree with me, and even the ones that didn’t said they had a new perspective on the rivalry known as “The Border War.”
Is (or was) Kansas v Missouri the biggest rivalry in American sports?? I don’t know. In order to even make that determination we’d have to agree on exactly how we would go about measuring the size of a rivalry. One has a significant edge in football, and the other has the edge in basketball, and although they’ve had their share of classic games, they haven’t always been classics either. They’ve also never met in the postseason in football or men’s basketball the way the Yankees and Red Sox have, and some other notable rivals have. It doesn’t get the national notoriety that Duke v North Carolina gets in basketball, and a first place finish in a major conference and/or national title implications don’t always seem to be on the line the way it was for so many years with Michigan v Ohio State in football.
So, maybe it’s not the biggest on the court or on the field, but I do think it is (or was) the most special and most unique rivalry in American Sports.
Why do I feel this way?? Well, maybe it’s because in addition to loving whiskey, porn mags, and college hoops, I’m also a history buff. To understand and fully appreciate the Border War rivalry between the Jayhawks and Tigers, you have to realize that there was an actual Border War that took place during the American Civil War, and two of the key players in that war were the Jayhawks, who were a militia based in Kansas, particularly in Lawrence, and the Tigers, who were another militia based in Columbia, Missouri.
The Jayhawks were less specific. It was a name used to categorize anyone from Kansas who went into Missouri and wreaked havoc on the civilians by raping, burning and stealing from everyone. In the time leading up to the Civil War, Kansas exploded as people who were for slavery clashed with those who were against slavery. There were many militias organized to combat those who favored slavery. The problem was that the Jayhawks didn’t seem to differentiate who was pro slavery, and who was abolitionist. They just went into Missouri and attacked and stole from anyone who they came across. There are allegations that they were so abusive to the people of Missouri, that General George McClellan received daily complaints about their behavior, but since he was located back in the east, he was in no position to stop them…and didn’t. Several historians believe that the Jayhawks drove more people to sympathize with the Rebel Confederacy not because they supported slavery, but because they wanted to side with an army that would protect them from the Jayhawks.
The Tigers were a militia that was specifically stationed at the University of Missouri in Columbia, and their main job was to protect the students and faculty from the craziness that was the Civil War, particularly from the Rebel Confederacy. Even though the Jayhawks and Tigers both sided with the Union, they were still adversaries, and there were attacks and clashes in the time before the Civil War, and even during the Civil War.
Think about this. The Civil War ended in 1865. The Jayhawks, who were heavily based in Lawrence, consisted of several young men who were either enrolled in the University, or chose to enroll in the University after the war ended. The same is true with the Tigers, who were based in Columbia and whose members likely enrolled at the University of Missouri.
The first football game between Kansas and Missouri was in 1891. That’s not even a generation later. It’s not a stretch to think (in fact, it is even likely) that there were former Jayhawks and former Tigers, who fought with each other and perhaps even killed people on the other side, who were in attendance at that first football game.
The fact that Kansas still calls themselves the Jayhawks, and Missouri still calls themselves the Tigers, is pretty cool and pretty special. Kids who grow up in Kansas and Missouri learn all about Bleeding Kansas, and the Border War, and the Jayhawks, and the Tigers, in their history classes. The Kansas v Missouri rivalry is far more deeply rooted than any other rivalry in any other sport in America. The fact that you can trace the lineage back to a time when Jayhawks and Tigers were enrolled at both universities, and that the rivalry began when members of the Jayhawks and Tigers were still alive is something that makes this rivalry more unique than any other rivalry.
So, why do I like this rivalry so much?? It allows me to do the following things. I get to watch television. I get to drink whiskey, and I get to watch an ongoing tradition that is deeply rooted to a significant time in our history. Duke v North Carolina is incredible. Ohio State v Michigan has reached some pretty high boiling points. Louisville v Kentucky is full of venom. The Yankees v Red Sox has created some of Baseball’s greatest moments. None of them have what Kansas vs Missouri had. They never will. They can’t. No one can.
The last two meetings in basketball were two of the best basketball games ever played throughout the entire series. Both teams were ranked in the top five. Both games saw the home team down double digits in the final two minutes of regulation. Both games went to overtime, and both games were won by the home teams who staged incredible comebacks. When something is that good, it shouldn’t end. When something is that good with the kind of history this game has, it’s almost criminal to end it. Saying that Congress should declare the series a national landmark (or…something) and order that the series be continued would, of course, be over the top. But…I wouldn’t argue against it if they did.
Of course, both schools blame each other. Kansas blames Missouri for leaving and says that an out of conference match-up would be indignant because the rivalry deserves more. Missouri says they want the series, and blames Kansas for not playing them if it’s going to be out of conference. I know why Missouri left the Big Twelve, and it wasn’t to get away from Kansas. It was to get away from Texas, but that’s another story.
Who do I side with?? Both of them. And neither of them. What’s strange is that I really don’t like either team. I just love the rivalry they had. I agree with Kansas when they say it’s not the same if it’s not a conference game, but I also agree with Missouri in saying that it’s worth keeping it going even if it’s not a conference game. Selfishly, I wish Missouri would have never left the Big Twelve. Selfishly, I’d love to see West Virginia and Missouri swap conferences since neither of them seem to be in a conference that’s a natural fit. Seflishly, I wish the Big Ten would have taken Kansas and Missouri instead of Rutgers and Maryland.
There are other rivalries, but none like this one. Kansas v Kansas State is a good rivalry, but that’s all it is. A good rivalry. Kansas v Missouri was more than good. It was special. It had a rooted history that nothing else could ever have….and it’s gone now. As Mercutio said to the Capulets and Montegues, “A PLAGUE ON BOTH YOUR HOUSES!!”
Chad and David are back for the first podcast of the 2014-2015 NCAA Athletic year. They discuss the coaching changes and the conference realignment that has taken place throughout the offseason, and talk about what that means for several of the programs that are involved.
In a special hour-long Monday podcast, Kyle Lamb and David Griggs go into detail about the Northwestern player union vote, the NCAA’s plan of attack for amateurism and how/why this is all taking form. Enjoy!
Yale at Murray State, Thursday April 3, 7:00 PM Eastern, CBS Sports Network
It is finally here. The Championship. The final game. One game to decide who gets to hang the banner be forever remembered as the team that won it all in 2014. Well, who won the 2014 CIT at least.
Thursday night, the Ivy League’s Yale Bulldogs travel to the CFSB Center in Murray, Kentucky to take on the Ohio Valley Conference’s Murray State Racers for the championship of the 2014 CollegeInsiders.com Tournament. Yale is 19-13 on the season entering tonight’s game while Murray State holds a 22-11 record. All told, Yale has had a much tougher road to this title game, and it remains to be seen whether they have enough left for one more road win.
Yale opened the CIT with a one point home win over Quinnipiac, and followed that up with three straight road victories, at Holy Cross, at Columbia, and at VMI. Murray State, on the other hand, has only had to travel out on the road once in the entire tournament. The Racers opened the CIT with a three point road victory at Missouri State. They have been able to stay home since then, winning by double digits over Nebraska-Omaha, Towson, and Pacific. Clearly, the Racers are the favorites tonight to keep up their home-court wining streak (in fact they only lost one home game all season, and that was back in late November to Middle Tennessee).
The winner of this game will be the 2014 CIT champions. They will join Old Dominion (2009), Missouri State (2010), Santa Clara (2011), Mercer (2012), and East Carolina (2013) as the only teams to have CIT championship banners hanging at their home courts. And in the end, while both Yale and Murray State came up short in their attempts to earn an NCAA tournament bid this season, there will be a question that will remain unanswered. Is a season more of a success if a team earns an NCAA bid just to be eliminated in the first round of the Big Dance, or is it more of a success if it ends with a victory in a national tournament, such as the NIT, CBI or CIT? Either Yale or Murray State will be able to claim the later at the conclusion of this game.
YALE at VMI, 7:00 PM Eastern, CBS-Sports Network
We have reached April, and not only is the NCAA tournament down to its Final Four, but so is the CIT. The semifinals will be played tonight, nationally televised on CBS Sports Network. The late game (9:00 PM Eastern) will feature the Pacific Tigers traveling to Kentucky to take on the Murray State Racers. However, our game of the day comes from Cameron Hall in Lexington, Virginia as the VMI Keydets out of the Big South conference host the Ivy League’s Yale Bulldogs.
Yale was the second place finisher in the Ivy League this season, and following three wins in the CIT so far is now sitting at 18-13 overall on the season. The Bulldogs run to the CIT semifinals has been by far their best postseason showing ever. Prior to this year, Yale in fact only had one postseason win to its program’s credit, a first round win in the NIT back in 2002. After surviving a battle with Ivy League mate Columbia in the quarterfinals, the Bulldogs look tonight to advance to their first ever championship game in a national postseason tournament.
VMI is also looking to extend its season tonight. The Keydets three CIT wins have brought their overall record to 22-12. They play an exciting fast-paced brand of basketball that gives them a good chance to score in the triple digits every time out. VMI’s appearance in the CIT this season was the first postseason berth for the school since its last NCAA appearance in 1977. Of course, VMI had a couple of pretty good teams back in the mid-70s, including their 1976 team that lost to Rutgers in the East Regional final. Since 1977, however, this has clearly been the Keydets most successful season and, like Yale, they want nothing more than to keep winning and have a chance to hang that championship banner with wins both tonight and on Thursday night in the title game.
Chad and David review the NCAA Tournament up to this point, and preview the upcoming games, and talk about some of the recent coaching changes.