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Border Co(war)dice: A Possible Move of Fear by Missouri? Or Preservation?

In a recent article by Brent McMurphy, college football insider from Action Network HQ, it is claimed that Missouri football is refusing to play against Kansas football in a potential bowl game faceoff. Missouri has since denied these allegations and has been doing damage control since the report came out, but the question on everyone's mind is are these allegations true? Yes, Missouri denied the allegations, as did head coach Eli Drinkwitz, saying they'll play anyone anywhere, but PR damage control being what it is of course Mizzou will deny such things. It would be incredibly embarrassing if it was found that an athletic program is beating around the bush when it comes to playing their fierce longtime rivals and avoiding any competition, just ask KU who has dealt with allegations of doing the exact same thing in basketball.

The Border War has already made its way back to basketball, the Jayhawks and Tigers face off December 10th in Columbia, and is on its way back to football in 2025 when the teams clash at Faurot Field. What gives then? Clearly the teams aren't scared to go up against each other, so what's the deal? However, let's look at potential reasons as to why a faceoff such as this would be ducked in the first place, on either side of the state line. It's not a matter of principle and cowardice, it's a matter of money and recruiting. If Missouri ends up facing off against KU in a bowl game, it's a lose-lose situation. If they win, what do they win? Bragging rights? Traditional values? Just another bowl that they could have won anyway? What does it gain if they play KU? The real question is, what would it lose? If Missouri were to lose against KU, this shifts the recruiting dynamics of the KCMO area. Same if KU were to lose to MU, but on a lesser degree given KU doesn't really have a lot of footing to begin with in regard to recruiting in the KCMO area (Though they are working toward it which is a key factor as well here) They already lost against Kansas State earlier this year, and a KU loss would guarantee more recruits look elsewhere and look at KU more even. Missouri has St. Louis and KCMO in their own state, however St. Louis recruiting is slipping. This leaves KCMO as one of the biggest and most important recruiting hotbeds for the Tigers, at least until Drinkwitz can once again secure a foothold in STL. Lose against KU though, and the progress you've made falls apart as well as the rest of the hold you have on St. Louis. It would be detrimental to recruiting, and in the SEC you need all the in-state power you can get when you don't already have a name for yourself such as Alabama does. Monetarily speaking, a bowl game this year would put a damper on the 2025 matchup at Faurot. I'm not saying it won't sell out still, but it's by all means possible you could lose revenue depending on how this game goes when 2025 rolls around. A loss would cause potentially major harm to the key building blocks of what makes a collegiate athletic program for Mizzou, and no matter how badly the fans want to see a rematch, administratively speaking it's incredibly risky to play each other outside of the regular season in stakes such as this. Mizzou leaving for the SEC caused these factors to be taken into account, mind you. If it were in conference that's the whole point, is to make sure you stay ahead in the conference. Now that there's not that factor to play for, it's really up to tradition, which does not take precedence over program preservation.

The same can be said for KU as well. All those years of "ducking" Missouri basketball were not because they did not want the rivalry to continue, it just wasn't feasible. Missouri had a dumpster fire basketball program, and if by some miracle they ended up beating KU it would utterly destroy their reputation and in turn bring a massive blow to recruiting and revenue no matter if you went far in March or not. For Missouri, it would be like throwing yourself into a meatgrinder, of which the same comparison could be made for KU football all those years as well. It was not worth it for either side to take on each other in a non-conference setting when both programs have areas that are struggling mightily. Now that the playing field is becoming more even though however in basketball and football (your biggest revenue generators) KU is more willing to take the Tigers on. It's becoming less of a lose-lose situation and becoming closer to what we saw in years past (minus the interconference implications) but I do not believe this renewed rivalry is quite ready for something as large as a bowl game faceoff. Both administrations know this, and are taking precautions.

(And now to get on my KU fan soapbox) I want to see the Border War revamped as much as the next guy. To be frank I despise Mizzou and everything they stand for as a lifelong KU fan and honestly a person knowledgeable of history. I can't say I'm too proud of what the Tigers represent in terms of state and national history (See the events of Bleeding Kansas) which is why even though I am Missouri born and raised I am not a Mizzou fan and never will be. I'll write about them and I'll research them, but I do not support them. I mean, that and I'm a KU alum/lifelong fan as stated previously, but I do fully understand and sympathize with Missouri allegedly being hesitant to jump into a bowl matchup with KU. I think KU fans should be hesitant too, as the progress and momentum made with the football program could also take a hit if KU were to suffer a big loss on the national stage such as this. Tradition and rivalry are fun and will always have a place, but the respective programs need to think hard about what the implications might be towards revenue and recruiting, i.e., the driving forces of college athletics. If this rivalry is to be fully renewed to its former glory, then I think it must be done in the regular season where teams can both agree to play and prepare more with more time to take each other on. Take things slow and steady and allow for programs to develop, otherwise you'll see a watered-down version of said rivalry where one side just completely dominates the other with no real gains. It cannot be revitalized in the scope, setting, and magnitude of a bowl game, no matter if it's the Liberty Bowl, Rose Bowl, or the Idaho Potato Bowl it's still a bowl game, and bowl wins are a major key in recruiting and revenue. In order to preserve both programs, a bowl game between them really should be avoided until both teams can fully find their footing. Otherwise, we may set the timetable back for these teams playing each other regularly and on an even playing field for a long time. Mizzou is not ready, and neither is KU.

Burn Notice: 10/10 Don't hate me this is my opinion, thanks.

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