Knowledgeable sports writers are offering their analyses of Saturday’s Kansas-Missouri football game, the performance of various players, the quarterback situation at Kansas University and the future of KU coach Turner Gill.
However, to the casual observer — and to many loyal Jayhawk fans — the KU team’s attack on the Tigers seemed listless or lackadaisical. There didn’t appear to be as much fire and enthusiasm as usual for the traditional battle between KU and MU.
In past years, men such as the late Phog Allen, KU’s tremendously successful basketball coach, and former KU football player and coach Don Fambrough have been invited to speak to the players about the importance of the heated rivalry between the Tigers and the Jayhawks. For those who don’t know, this is not a one-way sentiment; many Missourians have just as much dislike of KU and Kansas as many Kansans have toward MIssouri. Former MU basketball coach Norm Stewart was — and maybe still is — just as much anti-KU and anti-Kansas as Allen and Fambrough are anti-Missouri.
Times change, however, and for the misguided sake of political correctness, the KU-MU football game that used to be known as the “Border War” now has been softened officially to the “Border Showdown.”
Many KU fans cannot figure out why Coach Gill has made it quite clear that he doesn’t want Fambrough around the team and did not want him to deliver his traditional fired-up talk to the players about the importance of the MU game. Gill claimed Fambrough was not feeling well, but Fambrough said he was able and ready to deliver his impassioned message. Phog Allen had this same fire and he, too, had the rare ability to inspire and challenge his players to give the utmost to win.
Apparently, some in the KU family thought decking out the KU players in white uniforms and white helmets would “excite” fans and players, but there is no evidence this was the case, just as there is no evidence that the new $3 million-plus scoreboard in Memorial Stadium provided extra motivation for the players or fans this past season.
The strained relationship between Coach Gill and former coach Don Fambrough is unfortunate. Saturday, it was obvious KU players could have used a fiery pep talk by Fambrough more than white helmets and white uniforms.