COLUMBIA — The Oklahoma-MU football rivalry existed before the Big 8 was the Big 12. In fact, it dates back to when MU played in the Big Six. With a long history and 91 games played, it’s no surprise that the game’s bragging rights developed into something more tangible.
In 1929, the MU student society Mystical Seven and athletic director Chester Brewer smoked a peace pipe together at halftime of the Oklahoma-MU game, according to the MU athletics Web site. It started a tradition that would last for decades.
Seventy-eight years later, before Saturday’s game — the most anticipated match-up of the rivalry in years — the pipe is missing, the tradition is forgotten and little trail is left to piece the puzzle together.
Articles from The Missouri Alumnus, a monthly university magazine, show that a peace pipe became a traveling trophy in 1940, when a pipe was donated by John S. Knight, the former president of the MU’s Men’s Alumni Association. The tradition was handed down to Oklahoma’s Pe-Et Honor Society and MU’s Mystical Seven, who shared the peace pipe in the end zone at halftime to celebrate the two universities.
The pipe formerly belonged to Chief White Eagle of the Pawnee tribe, according to an article from the Missouri Alumnus in October 1940, and it was believed to be 100 years old in 1940.
According to MU Archives, an inscription on the front of the peace pipe reads: “Mystical Seven Society Ceremonial Tomahawk Pipe, University of Missouri vs. University of Oklahoma, Dr. John S. Knight — donor of peace pipe.” The winners of each game were inscribed on the back of the pipe. Oklahoma’s name was inscribed 19 times to MU’s three during a span from 1940 to 1963. After a tie in 1964, Oklahoma acquiescently gave MU the pipe to hold, as Oklahoma had held the trophy far more times in the game’s history.
Mystical Seven member David H. Rolf wrote to former Dean Jack Matthews in 1968 about the halftime tradition: “I was surprised to learn that you couldn’t actually smoke it,” Rolf wrote. “You see, the neck has no hole in it to carry the smoke.”
Rolf explained how, in the past, the two societies had relied on the cold November weather to simulate smoke. But with temperatures in the low 60s, Rolf said the groups discreetly tied a Winston cigarette to the pipe to create the effect.
But sometime in the following years, the halftime tradition mysteriously stopped.
In 1974, Mystical Seven member Michael Sachs recalls traveling to Norman for the pipe game, he said in an e-mail. MU lost that game and so the pipe once again was in the hands of Oklahoma. The following year, in 1975, Mystical Seven member John Kuhlman said that the peace pipe ceremony did not occur.
Following the apparent end of the tradition, MU has only beaten Oklahoma a handful of times. After the 1998 Tigers beat Oklahoma, the Missouri Alumnus wrote an article mentioning the peace pipe that can’t be smoked. It quoted Oklahoma’s athletic director, Joe Castiglione, formerly of MU, as promising to look for it.
Kenny Mossman, senior associate athletic director at Oklahoma, said Oklahoma officials started to search through their archives years ago for university collectibles and historical items.
“We went through a fairly significant review of archives and never found neither hide nor hair of it,” Mossman said.
Frankie Minor, faculty adviser for Mystical Seven, said he’s not sure what happened to the tradition. There was little documentation on when the tradition had started, and even less on when it ended.
The Missouri Alumnus wrote that the tradition began in 1940. A memo titled “Mystical Seven, Nov. 3, 1955” found in MU’s archives claims the tradition began in Norman, Okla., in 1942. But the Missouri Athletics Department Web site says it began in 1929, with a pipe donated by R.L. Hill, a former student body president.
The tradition has been rehashed in recent years, Minor said.
“A few years ago we contacted Pe-Et and inquired about their interest in reviving the tradition,” Minor said. Due to the new Big 12 alignment, MU and Oklahoma’s football team do not meet every year. Basketball does, however, and the new tradition involves Mystical Seven members meeting Pe-Et on the court at halftime.
But instead of a pipe, which Minor calls “a legacy of an earlier time period,” the group chose a more unifying symbol for the two universities — a piece of slate from MU’s Memorial Union, as both Missouri and Oklahoma have a Memorial Union.
No one knows the reason for the peace pipe’s demise. One possibility is that the tradition ended because members of the two societies were responsible for traveling down and booking their own accommodations. In 1961, members from the Pe-Et society could not get tickets to the game, so the end zone smoke session was not held.
Aside from asking the two universities’ societies, no more has been done to locate the peace pipe. The loss of the tradition also marks the loss of an artifact more than 160 years old with deep ties to the rival universities.
Jim Heeder, who attended the Oklahoma-MU game in 1969, regrets the demise of the tradition.
“Those things were fun,” Heeder said. “It was part of the college tradition.”