THE CALL comes
early in the week of the Missouri game. Some years Kansas coach Mark Mangino
invites Don Fambrough to say a few words to the Jayhawks players to help get
them in the proper frame of mind to face the Tigers. To stoke their outrage, in
Advancing age has not smoothed the rough edges on Fambrough, 85, who put in two
stints as the Kansas coach from 1971 through '82. When a visitor remarked
recently on the unseasonably mild weather in Lawrence, the old coach agreed,
then warned, "You never know around here. In two days there could be snow
up to your ass."
If Coach Fam's previous Missouri-week speeches are a guide, he will urge
offensive linemen to stay on their blocks for an extra two seconds. He will
implore running backs to pump their legs for an extra two yards. He will advise
the Jayhawks to spend a little extra time looking at film. Then he'll get to
the point. After reminding his audience that the name of the Kansas-Missouri
game was changed a few years ago from Border War to Border Showdown, he will
raise his voice and pass judgment on that exercise in political
ass! When you're playin' other teams, it might be a 'showdown.' When you're
playin' Missouri, it's a war! And they started the damn war."
for the 116th time, the Jayhawks will take the field against the Tigers. For
once and at long last, the rest of the republic cares about the outcome. In a
fitting climax to a surreal regular season Kansas enters the game ranked No. 2
in the BCS, Missouri No. 4. The victor will need only a win in the Big 12
championship game to play for the national title.
The rivalry has
stood out down through the decades less for the quality of the football than
for the two states' shared history, and the depth and provenance of the ill
will. As The Kansas City Star recently pointed out, the Border War nickname was
"not a product of the schools' publicity departments." It exists,
instead, "because Missourians and Kansans who mostly lived close to the
border once waged real war against each other."
In the early
1860s the infamous William Quantrill staged raids along the Missouri-Kansas
border and eventually became a captain in the Confederacy. ( Kansas was part of
the Union.) In 1863 the then Missouri-based Quantrill and 450 of his Raiders
attacked Lawrence, slaughtering scores of unarmed citizens and torching parts
of the city. Recounting the atrocity, Coach Fam prefers to garnish it with this
small fiction: He tells the players, after the massacre "they found out ...
[Quantrill] was a Missouri alum!" (When an overly credulous football player
included that falsehood on a history exam, the professor phoned Fambrough.
"I'll let you coach football," he said, "if you'll let me teach
genuine enmity underlying it, KU-Mizzou barely makes the B-list of college
football's best-known rivalries. There is the Game ( Ohio State-- Michigan) and
the game formerly known as the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party
(Florida-Georgia). There is the Red River Rivalry (Texas-Oklahoma) and the
Civil War ( Oregon-- Oregon State)—all of them rather civil, it turns out,
compared with the sport's oldest rivalry west of the Mississippi.
dispatching Iowa State 45--7 last Saturday, the Jayhawks improved to 11--0. The
team that won 12 games, total, from 1986 to '90 could win its 12th game of the
season at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., this Saturday.
Kansas State 49--32, Mizzou improved to 10--1. The team that had three winning
seasons from 1984 through 2004 rose in the rankings thanks to Oregon's loss at
Arizona and Oklahoma's defeat at Texas Tech. In this year's Border War, the
malice has meaning. Not for the first time. But for the first time in a long
IT'S NOT as if
Mizzou hasn't won 10 games in a season before. It happened as recently as 1960.
The Tigers were 9--0 and No. 1 in the nation when Kansas came to town. Their
backfield stacked with future pros John Hadl, Curtis McClinton, Bert Coan and
Doyle Schick, the Jayhawks upset the Tigers 23--7. But Coan, it turned out, had
accepted a plane ride from a KU booster the summer after his freshman year.
Missouri athletic director Don Faurot pressured the Big Eight, and the Jayhawks
were told to forfeit the game. ( Kansas acknowledges the forfeit in its media
guide but counts the game as a win in the series, which, when you award the '60
game to Missouri, stands at 53-53-9.) Faurot's treachery—to this day,
Jayhawkers see it as such—carried over to basketball season. So vociferously
were the Tigers booed at Allen Fieldhouse the following January, "they
couldn't introduce the teams or play the national anthem," recalls Norm
Stewart, an assistant coach on that squad. " Kansas won handily."
returned the favor later in the season, several hundred of them storming the
court in the aftermath of a bench-clearing brawl triggered by "one of their
players overreacting," says Stewart, who was named the Tigers' head coach
in 1967. "We lost the fight but won the game." Stewart, who retired
after the 1998--99 season, vowed to "never spend a dime in Kansas,"
which meant that his team stayed in hotels across the border, in Kansas