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Kansas, Missouri end 120-year-old rivalry

An unidentified Kansas fan holds up a sign during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011. Missouri is leaving the Big 12 conference for the SEC.

An unidentified Kansas fan holds up a sign during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Missouri at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011. Missouri is leaving the Big 12 conference for the SEC. Photo by The Associated Press.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The jovial Kansas fan decked out in school colors of red and blue scooped a sizzling hamburger patty off the portable grill and dropped it onto the plate of a smiling fellow dressed in Missouri black and gold.

Apparently, passions have cooled over 120 years. Fistfights broke out in the crowd in 1891 when Kansas and Missouri played their first football game.

For the most part, good-natured jibes held sway during festive tailgating on Saturday when they played their last.

"It's a shame this rivalry has to end," said 1976 Kansas grad Steve Billings as he slipped another patty onto the grill. "But we'll just continue to hope they lose in the SEC and we'll continue to build the Big 12."

When Missouri rallied for a 24-10 victory before a sparse crowd in Arrowhead Stadium, the nation's second-oldest collegiate rivalry — and one of the most unique — came to what many consider a sad end.

The Tigers, who have shared a conference with Kansas since 1907, are headed to the Southeastern Conference. They'll likely make more money and no longer worry about Texas or Oklahoma breaking up the league and forcing them to go hat-in-hand to some other BCS conference.

Kansas, without an invitation from another BCS conference when the Big 12 seemed on the brink of extinction both this year and last, is staying put.

Though things seem settled down now, the Jayhawks down the road will still be subject to the whims of Big 12 powers Texas and Oklahoma, not knowing the security that will soon belong to Missouri.

That Missouri was willing to leave them in the lurch is one reason Kansas has refused the Tigers' offer to continue the rivalry in Kansas City on a nonconference basis.

And that, to many Missourians, is one of the best things about leaving.

They were wanted by another major conference, and Kansas was not.

"Mizzou had to act in the best interests of Mizzou and that was going to the SEC, financially and athletically," Missouri fan Michael Funk said.

"But (the Big 12) has some stability now and I think KU should understand that."

As inflamed as emotions have always been in these parts, fans around the nation rarely paid much attention to Kansas-Missouri games.

Unlike other long-running rivalries such as Alabama-Auburn and Michigan-Ohio State, the Jayhawks and Tigers were rarely very good.

But that doesn't mean people are happy to see the long rivalry end.

"If you've got a 120-year-old tree in your backyard, do you chop it down and plant a sapling?" asked Amy Longstreet, a lifelong Kansas fan.

Called for generations "the Border War," the Kansas-Missouri rivalry actually did trace its roots to real bloodshed, the violent border clashes between free state Kansas and slave state Missouri in the 1850s and '60s.

Marauding bands from Kansas known as Jayhawkers would make raids on towns in Missouri, which was protected by militia known as Missouri Tigers. William Quantrill's raiders murdered more than 100 men and burned Lawrence, Kan., to the ground in 1863. Before that, a gang of Jayhawkers did the same to Oceola, Mo.

The ensuing football series was so bitter, the two sides do not even agree on the overall record. Kansas claims victory in 1961 when it inflicted a loss that may have cost Missouri its only shot at a national championship.

But Missouri claims victory because the Big Eight Conference said the Jayhawks used an ineligible player and ordered a forfeit.

Longtime Missouri basketball coach Norm Stewart would never let his team stay in hotels on the Kansas side of the border.

Former Kansas football coach Don Fambrough used to pump up his players the night before the Missouri game by telling them Quantrill was a Missouri grad. He wasn't. But the ploy never failed to work the Jayhawks to a fever pitch.

One of the biggest slights Missouri had to endure at Kansas hands came in 2007 when the Tigers, ranked No. 3 and unbeaten, defeated No. 2 Kansas in an epic clash.

But through good politicking by then-Kansas athletic director Lew Perkins, the Jayhawks wound up in the BCS Orange Bowl while Missouri had to settle for the Cotton Bowl.

That's one the Tigers have never forgotten. Just ask a famous Missouri fan who popped into the press box at halftime Saturday.

"Those were good games. Whether it was Missouri winning and going to No. 1 or Kansas mistakenly going to the Orange Bowl," Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said.

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