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Archive for Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Arrowhead move long time coming

Past athletic department regimes considered playing Border War in Kansas City

January 24, 2007

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Neutral-site football games haven't been a popular thought in the past.

Take Bill Snyder. The former Kansas State football coach was asked by a reporter in 2005 if he'd be willing to move a pair of Big 12 Conference football games with, say, Nebraska to Arrowhead Stadium on a trial basis.

Snyder found the thought to be borderline ridiculous.

"If Nebraska would like to take their home game to Arrowhead, I'd be more than happy to," he quipped.

But taking any game off K-State's campus? Forget it.

It's safe to say Kansas University's athletic department is a bit more experimental than Snyder ever wanted to be, as Monday's news can attest to. Kansas and Missouri have agreed to play the 2007 and 2008 Border War games at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., with $2 million in guaranteed money being the bait that finally got both schools to bite.

It can be viewed as money-driven, and that certainly wouldn't be wrong. But thoughts of the Border War moving to Kansas City have been lingering long before the current KU athletics regime helped trigger it Monday.

The 2007 game, slated for Nov. 24, will be the first KU-MU game away from campus in 62 years. But it's not for a lack of trying.

Kansas City Chiefs president Carl Peterson had conversations with the late Lamar Hunt about luring the game to K.C. almost 20 years ago. Missouri athletic director Mike Alden remembers conversations with former KU athletic director Bob Frederick regarding a possible move, though it never materialized.

"It was important that he maintained six games in Lawrence and we maintained six games in Columbia," Alden says now. "When we were talking about it, it just didn't work."

Then, current KU athletic director Lew Perkins was hired in 2003. The talks heated back up.

"I'm a firm believer that you have to try new things," Perkins said.

In 2004, KU officials pursued moving either two games in the Missouri series or the Kansas State series to Arrowhead. Snyder obviously wasn't interested. At the time, neither was Missouri. KU eventually chose to move a home game with Oklahoma in 2005.

That game, a 19-3 Sooners victory, had an estimated attendance of 54,109. KU officials confirmed the the school made more of a profit than it would for a game in Lawrence, which kept the athletic department's interest in maintaining the KU-Arrowhead relationship.

Now, it was a matter of making it fit for Mizzou.

On the same day in 2005 when Snyder brushed off the possibility of K-State moving a home game, Missouri coach Gary Pinkel was asked the same question: Would Mizzou ever be interested in moving a game to a neutral site?

Pinkel seemed cold to the idea, as well.

"That's something Mike Alden would have to do," Pinkel said at the time. "I think Mike is very, very sensitive to the businesses here in Columbia and the money generated for home games. And I think he should be."

The NCAA legislation permitting the 12th game on the regular-season schedule in 2006 changed things, though. With more chances for home games, Alden felt a little more freedom to wander outside of Columbia. The Chiefs were interested. Under the right terms, Kansas was, too.

A matrimony finally was made - ironically, between two bitter rivals and a professional team right in the middle.

"I think this is a win-win situation for both universities," Peterson said. "I'd like to think that Columbia and Lawrence, once it happens, will say 'Hey, that was pretty neat.'"

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