The Border War may soon be making its return to the gridiron.
#Mizzou AD Jim Sterk told donors in an email this morning that a four-game football series with Kansas "is being contracted as of this writing.” Look for series to be finalized soon.— Gabe DeArmond (@GabeDeArmond) April 9, 2020
#Mizzou is working on contracting a four-game football series with Kansas, as @GabeDeArmond first reported. The two rivals haven't played in football since Mizzou left the Big 12. Looks like the Border War is coming back.— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) April 9, 2020
Several details, including locations, years played, and ticket information, are still unclear, but this series doesn’t come as a massive surprise.
Missouri announced Oct. 21 that the rivalry would be returning to the hardwood, with its men’s basketball program playing the Jayhawks once in each of the next six seasons. The announcement marked the return of a series that Kansas leads 172-95.
About a week later, athletic director Jim Sterk said he hoped that a deal would get done for the football programs to play by the end of the calendar year.
While the timespan of this series is unclear, the Tigers do have their nonconference opponents scheduled through the 2025 season. However, it’s possible Missouri could rearrange some matchups to play Kansas sooner.
As of 3 p.m. Thursday, the Missouri Athletic Department had "no news to report" on the series.
Overall, the Tigers lead the series with the Jayhawks 57-54-9. It is the fifth-most played matchup in college football, even with its nine-year hiatus, and prior to 2011, the teams played for 93 consecutive seasons.
The matchups will mark the first time the football programs have been pitted against each other since 2011, when the Tigers won 24-10 at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
Since the 2011 game, the Tigers have seen significantly more success than their Kansas counterparts.
The Jayhawks are 16-80 since they last played Missouri, with just five conference wins and as many head coaches. The Tigers are 58-44 since that point.
Both programs also have fairly new faces at the helm, with former national champion and LSU head coach Les Miles heading into year two in Lawrence, and the Tigers hiring Eli Drinkwitz in December.
Mark Godich, an editor at The Athletic, penned the book “Tigers versus Jayhawks: From the Civil War to the Battle for #1,” which chronicles the rivalry all the way back to its pre-Civil War roots. He said the rivalry is one of the most unappreciated in college sports.
“People that don’t understand the history kind of roll their eyes when they hear Kansas-Missouri versus Alabama-Auburn or Michigan-Ohio State or Texas-Oklahoma,” he said. “People just don’t know the depth of it and the hatred that’s built up over the years.”
Godich also thinks factors like location or program prominence won’t matter much once the rivalry starts back up.
“From a football standpoint, they played for years and years where both teams were just not any good, and the hatred was still there; the rivalry was still there,” Godich said. “I think we’ve shown over the years that fans from both sides will support the rivalry, even when one or both of the programs is bad.”
Former Missouri tight end Martin Rucker, who played for the Tigers from 2004-07, said the matchup with the Jayhawks was never “just another regular season game.”
“You talk about, ‘No game’s more important than the other,’ and, ‘You just focus on the next Saturday,’” he said. “But that’s one of those games that you circle on your calendar for four years from the time you step on campus.”
Rucker played in arguably the most prominent Border War matchup ever, when the No. 3 Tigers toppled the No. 2 Jayhawks in Nov. 2007. It cemented Missouri as the No. 1 team in the nation, and Rucker scored the opening touchdown.
“You always want to score in big games, and to score the first touchdown in such an important game and it being against KU was a dream come true,” he said.
Even when the programs weren’t elite, the rivalry still meant a great deal. Former Missouri coach Bob Stull said the matchup was one he always emphasized . He even bet the hair on his upper lip on it in 1990.
“I had a mustache at the time and I said, ‘If we win this game, I’ll shave my mustache,’” Stull said.
The Tigers went on to beat the Jayhawks 31-21 in Lawrence, and Stull still remembers Steve Martin, a defensive lineman, running up to him with a razor postgame.
“I said, ‘No way, I’ll take that,’” he said, chuckling.
Rucker said he was excited when he read Thursday’s reports of the Border War renewal. He was also surprised.
“I never thought that KU would have the guts to play us again,” he said.