Kansas City has a rich sports history that’s worth celebrating. With 2022 marking the 100th anniversary of 810 WHB, local author and historian David Smale will look back into Kansas City’s history and pick a significant sporting event that happened during that week in past years.
A lot of colleges claim to have the best rivalry in sports, and there are good reasons for those claims. But none can match up with Kansas vs. Missouri.
Duke vs. North Carolina in basketball often is cited as the best rivalry in college sports, because the schools are so close and the competition is so even. Over the past 40 years or so, North Carolina and Duke—located just 8 miles apart—have won practically the same number of games against each other, and the point difference in all those games combined is a two-possession game. When the two teams play, usually one of them has national championship aspirations—and many times both of them do. But Duke and Carolina’s rivalry all-but disappears nationally in other sports besides basketball.
Auburn and Alabama have the best nickname for their annual football game: “the Iron Bowl.” Much like Carolina and Duke, the winner of this game often is a prime contender for the national championship. The schools are in the same state, though a little farther than 8 miles apart. But also like Duke and Carolina basketball, sports contests other than football pale in comparison.
Ohio State and Michigan are bordering states with rivalries that permeate all sports. Members of the Ohio State fan base won’t even call their rival by name; they just call it “the school up north.” Signs in Columbus, Ohio, often have “M’s” removed. The two schools fanbases hate each other when sports are the topic, but they can be friends in other life situations.
But the rivalry between the University of Kansas and the University of Missouri is different, partly because of its origins. Bordering states on opposite sides in the Civil War, their rivalry goes back more than 150 years. Some quirky, but definite, traditions, including former Missouri basketball coach Norm Stewart not allowing his team to spend money on hotels or food when playing at Kansas, show a deep-seated hatred between the two prominent universities.
The rivalry spills over into every sport, and probably other aspects of student life. If the two schools meet for tiddlywinks, there will be some serious catcalling going on.
On February 25, 2012, the two schools met for the final men’s basketball game at historic Allen Fieldhouse before Missouri departed the Big 12 for the Southeastern Conference. It was the most anticipated Missouri “invasion” since Quantrill and his men destroyed much of Lawrence in 1863.
The early part of the game looked like the No. 3-ranked Quantrills, er, Tigers were looking for a repeat. They led by 12 points at halftime and by as many as 19 in the second half. But the 4th-ranked Jayhawks, named after fierce Kansas settlers in the 1850s, wouldn’t back down. They chipped away at the lead, cutting it to 71-70 with two and a half minutes remaining. Mizzou held Kansas at arm’s length until Thomas Robinson hit a bucket from close range with 16.8 seconds left. His foul shot tied the game at 75-all.
Missouri had a chance to tie, but Robinson blocked Phil Pressey’s driving attempt—some Missouri fans are still screaming “Foul!”—to force overtime.
Overtime was back and forth. Tyshawn Taylor’s two free throws gave Kansas an 84-83 lead with 8.3 seconds remaining. The Tigers couldn’t get off a final shot, and Kansas claimed the victory.
Kansas athletics officials said they would no longer schedule games against the “traitors” from the east, just adding to the intensity and the meaning of this last battle. The two schools finally agreed to start playing each other again recently, but it’s hard to imagine a fiercer rivalry game than one that occurred 10 years ago this week.
David Smale has published two dozen books, mostly on sports history. He has written thousands of articles for various publications. He also hosts “Sports Connections with David Smale,” which is available at 810whb.com under the podcasts tab.