Border War

Kansas-Missouri athletics rivalry
The Kansas-Missouri rivalry has been decades in the making. In 2009 an assemblage of portions of the famed, but modified, John Brown mural inside the Kanas State Capitol was melded together. The image led to a shirt emblazoned, “Kansas: Keeping America Safe From Missouri Since 1854.”

What I am about to write may be viewed as blasphemy, but it has to be said. The student section inside Allen Fieldhouse is renowned and justifiably honored. However, in recent years, any frenzy poured from the students’ north and south stands lacked the vitriol of years past. (March 2009)

My fellow photographers seated along the baseline agreed. We felt the need for pump-up music to get the Fieldhouse rocking seemed contrived and a concession to changing times. I simply don’t want to believe that the deafening roar that forced me to stuff earplugs into my audial canals in the early ‘70s has come to an end.

If ever there was news to help give next year’s students a swift kick in the behind came in October 2019. KU and Missouri will officially renew games in men’s basketball starting next season in Kansas City’s Sprint Center for a six-year run. The Kansas City games will open and close the series. Campus sites will host the other four.

The “Border War” is back. Don’t let anyone attempt to call it the “Border Showdown” that political correctness dictated. Historically, any competition between the two schools took on extra meaning for the student-athletes, coaches and fans. The feeling reached epic proportions for basketball and football games. It was a war, a good war.

People love rivalry. Rivalries ignite passion. Every goal, every touchdown or hard slide, feeds the need and desire from fans to feel they are making a difference and helping their team pull out a victory over defeat. In sports, a little bit of hatred is not all bad. No group can get players and fans pumped up more than the students. Both schools profited from those feelings for years.

Despite Kansas State’s desire to make their battles a rivalry, such discord never truly materialized for KU after Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC in July of 2012. That seems a long time ago in these times of short attention spans spawned by social media. History lessons should be welcomed. A course on the “Border War” would enlighten the ties to the Civil War that seeded the rivalry on athletic fields and courts.

Football Coach Don Fambrough became a legend for his loathing of Missouri that spewed forth during his bitter and expletive-ridden pregame speeches filled with his hatred for the Tigers that continued until his death in 2011. He gained folklore status by purportedly refusing medical treatment in Missouri with the words, “I’ll die first.” Missouri basketball coach Norm Stewart made sure the team bus was refueled only in Missouri, while the team stayed in Kansas City, Missouri, before every game in Lawrence.

My hope is that with Missouri back on the schedule, the games will rival a day in March 2009 from a creative standpoint. An assemblage of portions of the famed, but modified, John Brown mural inside the Kansas State Capitol was melded together. That image led to a shirt emblazoned, “Kansas: Keeping America Safe From Missouri Since 1854.”

Failing that, let the din inside the Fieldhouse be as endless as the final home game in the basketball rivalry on February 25, 2012. “Electric” falls well short of the feeling inside the Fieldhouse during that overtime game. KU came back from 19 points down in the second half to force overtime. Thomas Robinson scored 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. His late basket in in the paint, and subsequent free throw to tie the game, became famous as students shaped the zero on the beloved forward’s jersey during the charity shot. He then blocked a Missouri shot with two-seconds left to force overtime.

In the extra period guard Tyshawn Taylor took over, scoring 12 of his 24 points in overtime. That total included two free throws to give KU its final lead and the victory, 87-86, after Missouri failed to get off a final shot in time.

The roar from coach Bill Self as the clock expired, along with the joy of Taylor in the locker room, should remind KU students and fans as the rivalry renews itself next season of one crucial fact. The seemingly-endless cacophony of that day might not have won the game for KU, but it certainly didn’t hurt. Long live the “Border War.” Bring on the fun.

Now, football needs to revive its rivalry. I would love to share photographs from football, and even a pivotal baseball moment that propelled the sixth-seeded Jayhawks to the 2006 Big 12 Baseball Tournament title.

Kansas-Missouri athletics rivalry
KU students held up newspapers that proclaimed Missouri seceded from Big 12 before the final regular season meeting in the Big 12 between the two rivals.
Kansas-Missouri athletics rivalry
KU students held up newspapers that proclaimed Missouri seceded from Big 12 before the final regular season meeting in the Big 12 between the two rivals.
KU's Thomas Robinson
KU’s Thomas Robinson put up an off balance shot that went in. Robinson was fouled on the play. Robinson hit the free throw to tie the game and force overtime in which KU went on to win 87-86.
KU's Thomas Robinson
KU’s Thomas Robinson fired the free throw that tied the game against Missouri at 75-75 and force overtime. KU students held their hands up in a zero, Robinson’s number.
KU's Thomas Robinson
KU’s Thomas Robinson blocked the shot Missouri’s Phil Pressey with two seconds left in regulation to preserve the tie and force overtime in which KU went on to win 87-86.
KU's Tyshawn Taylor
Kansas’ Tyshawn Taylor slammed home a dunk with 28 seconds left to put KU up by one at 85-84. Trying to stop dunk was MIssouri’s Steve Moore.
KU's Tyshawn Taylor
KU guard Tyshawn Taylor reached in to knock the ball away from Missouri’s Phil Presey during KU’s 87-86 overtime victory.
University of Kansas Coach Bill Self
KU coach Bill Self led the post-game cheers after KU defeated Missouri 87-86 in overtime.
Tyshawn Taylor
Tyshawn Taylor was all smiles as he was mobbed by his teammates in the locker room after victory over Missouri.


Jeff Jacobsen has photographed practically every big event the sports world has to offer during a professional career that spans over 53 years. Jacobsen has seen things up close that only a diehard sports fan could in their dreams. His work for the Topeka Capital-Journal, Arizona Republic, Kansas Athletics, Inc., many national publications and now Action Images Photography, Inc., cemented his reputation as one of the nation’s finest sports photographers.

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