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Archive for Monday, January 15, 2007

Keegan: KU-MU belongs on hill

January 15, 2007

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The oldest college football rivalry west of the Mississippi has belonged to the students of Kansas University and Missouri all these years. Not just the students who play, but those who talk about it all week and then walk to the stadium to watch it and yell about it.

The tailgating, the football tossing, the derogatory posters, the heartfelt hatred. It all takes on extra meaning on the host school's campus during Border War week.

Moving the game to Arrowhead Stadium would be as foolish as if tonight's Missouri-KU basketball game were scheduled to be played at Kemper Arena, instead of Allen Fieldhouse.

Such a move has been considered in the past. It's being discussed again. Sadly, it feels a little more real this time. The possibility the series could move as soon as this coming fall, on a two-year trial basis, has not been ruled out.

Arrowhead Stadium holds 79,400 spectators. KU's Memorial Stadium has a capacity of 50,071, not counting those taking in the game from the hill. Missouri's Memorial Stadium holds 62,000.

The move has the potential to make dollars, all right, just not dollars and sense, and that's why the athletic departments from both schools ought to punt on an idea that could rip the charm right out of the rivalry.

Packing the Kansas City Chiefs' stadium with crimson-and-blue-clad fans on one side and black-and-gold on the other might excite the networks, but a rivalry so historic has to be more than a TV show and cash-register stuffer. It has to be an event that consumes a town for a week. It only can be that if it's played in Lawrence one year, Columbia the next.

Even if the negative economic impact on Lawrence of moving the game doesn't bother you, even if you're not concerned about putting a strain on town-gown relations, consider the negative competitive impact it would have on the football program at such a crucial time.

The 2007 schedule again does not include Oklahoma, Texas and Texas Tech, all of which return in 2008. KU has to go for the kill before the schedule gets crazy again. The chances of defeating Missouri are greater at home than on neutral grounds. It could mean the difference between 8-4 and 7-5, which would be the difference between making a bad bowl game and making a worse bowl game. Or, it could mean the difference between a 7-5 record and a 6-6 finish, the latter possibly not being good enough to make it to the postseason.

$upporter$ of the move will point out that even without the Mizzou game being played on campus, the Jayhawks will have seven home dates at Memorial Stadium. Only one of those, against Nebraska, has the appeal of the Missouri game. The others: Central Michigan, Southeast Louisiana, Toledo, Florida International, Baylor and Iowa State. Hardly marquee material.

In the past couple of seasons, KU students began to show signs of taking ownership of their football program. Taking the Missouri game from them and dropping it an hour down the road, across the border, is no way to repay them for that subtle progress. On the contrary, it invites them to regress to the state of waiting for basketball season.

Don't stand quietly by and let it happen. Speak up. Remain silent and the Border War could be played outside Kansas forevermore.

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