Opinion: Why the Kansas vs Missouri Border War should be a priority

Kansas basketball (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Kansas basketball (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) /

Kansas Athletics announced Monday that they’ve reached an agreement with the University of Missouri to reignite the Kansas vs. Missouri Border War rivalry. Starting on December 12, 2020, Kansas will play a 6-game series basketball series against Missouri. This agreement may be unsettling to some, but it was the best move for the program.

On February 25, 2012, the Kansas Jayhawks played the Missouri Tigers in one of the greatest games in college basketball history in what would be the final Border War. After being down double digits in the second half, the Jayhawks fought their way back to narrowly defeat the Tigers 87-86 in overtime. While this was an incredibly entertaining game between two top 10 teams, the basis of its greatness is rooted far beyond the hardwood in Allen Fieldhouse.

Kansas and Missouri have hated one another since before the Civil War period. To summarize in Cliff Note style… Due to ideological differences regarding slavery, the bordering states of Missouri and soon to be Kansas formed militias that raided and pillaged one another’s territory. The violence escalated to the point where cities in both Missouri and Kansas were burnt to the ground.

The animosity between the two states carried over to their flagship Universities in the form of organized sporting events. The Border War sports rivalry began in 1891; and for over a century after, it produced extremely passionate and competitive games. The rivalry eventually ended following the epic aforementioned February 25, 2012 basketball game. Or so we all thought.

In a shocking turn of events, the two fanbases didn’t forget about one another in the years following that game.

As there were no actual games played between Kansas and Missouri, the rivalry grew in the form of d̶i̶s̶c̶u̶s̶s̶i̶o̶n̶s arguments between the fanbases. The arguments usually went something like this: Missouri fans- “S-E-C, S-E-C, we’re rolling in money while you’re stuck in the crappy Big 12! HA!” Kansas fans- “Our program is just as good without you on the schedule. We don’t even care about you anymore!”

In reality, — weather fans from each side want to admit it or not —Missouri and Kansas need each other.

After Missouri’s departure from the Big 12, Kansas found their new “rivals” in Kansas State (K-State) and Iowa State.

Due to the in-state proximity between the schools, K-State was the obvious replacement. Kansas has dominated the so-called “Sunflower Showdown” series historically, but K-State’s basketball program has been serviceable enough to make the matchups competitive at the very least. They also have plenty of history as they’ve played one another since the early 1900s. But the rivalry vs. Missouri is just different.

Just look at the name of the rivalry itself. If you were a student at Kansas, would you be more inclined to attend the Sunflower Showdown or the Border War? You would choose the Border War 10 out of 10 times. The Sunflower Showdown sounds like a farming competition at the Franklin County fair, not a legendary basketball game, but I digress.

Concerning the Iowa State Cyclones, well, their “rivalry” with Kansas is as one-sided as it gets. Ever since former head coach Fred Hoiberg led their program to national prominence in 2014, the Cyclones have been consistently good. But while Cyclone fans are obsessed with beating Kansas, it would take multiple decades of consistency for the Kansas vs. Iowa State rivalry to actually mean something to Jayhawk fans. Again, the rivalry vs. Missouri is just different.

Why is it different? Because it’s not possible to manufacture a complete inexorable hatred towards another school. That level of hate has to be developed organically over time. And considering this rivalry has been in existence since before the Civil War era, the Jayhawks and Tigers were meant to hate each other forever. The fanbases know that, and the schools know that; that’s why the deal to renew the Border War was created.

I won’t speak for the entire Missouri fanbase, but I am a veteran when it comes to Jayhawk fandom. With that in mind, Kansas fans who say that they “don’t care” or “don’t miss” Missouri are liars.

There’s a reason why Kansas fan accounts tweet at Missouri accounts when the Kansas club hockey team beat Missouri’s. Or why a large segment of the Kansas fanbase chuckled when Michael Porter Jr. suffered a serious injury. Or why Kansas fans felt a strange sense of relief when Missouri was hit with NCAA violations for academic fraud. It’s because Missouri is undoubtedly Kansas’ biggest and most hated rival. Anything and everything your rival does matters; that’s the beauty of it.

In sports, it’s satisfying to detest a specific group of people for no valid reason. Many people in Kansas — myself included — grew up hating the Missouri Tigers because that’s what they were taught growing up, and Vise Versa. They fanbases can get along when talking about the deity that is Patrick Mahomes; but when the conversation turns to Missouri vs. Kansas, people start to get hostile. But that’s perfectly okay.

For lack of a better word, the Border War rivalry is so great because it’s fun. And it’s not just fun for fans, it’s also fun for players, coaches, and administrators from the respective schools.

Some Jayhawk fans would argue that playing Missouri isn’t worth it due to Kansas’ consistently strong strength of schedule, and playing games at Mizzou Arena only improves recruiting and ticket sales for the Tigers. While those arguments do hold some validity, those critics must not enjoy great regular-season college basketball games.

They are forgetting the undeniable pride, passion, and effort that this rivalry ushers out of players. It doesn’t matter what gym they’re playing in or who the starters are, the atmosphere and competitiveness will always be electric during a Border War game.

Kansas vs. Missouri is truly one of the few unique rivalries that could never be recreated or diminished. Ultimately, the history, entertainment, and severity of it transcend the dollar signs, egos, and overall pettiness from both (mostly Kansas) administrations.

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Regardless of what happened in the seven years following the final matchup in February of 2012, it’s fantastic to see both schools finally bury the hatchet to reignite this great rivalry.