December 13, 2007

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

The relationship between Mizzou and Kansas was already one of the best rivalries in college sports. But the battle between the Tigers and the Jayhawks became even more bitter this past week courtesy in large part to the embattled college football Bowl Championship Series (BCS).

Despite the fact that the University of Missouri football team was ranked higher than the Kansas squad, and the Tigers beat the Jayhawks in the two teamsí regular season finale to clinch the Big 12 North title, it is Kanas going to a prestigious BCS bowl game not Mizzou. Whatís up with that?

Someone explained to me that by rule, the BCS can only select two teams from any conference for its bowl games.

One of those spots has to go to Big 12 Champions, Oklahoma. The Sooners, ranked #3 by the BCS, are the lone reason Missouri isnít playing in the BCS Championship game, knocking off the #1 Tigers in the conference championship game.

Yet while Missouri is ranked #6 by the BCS and Kansas is #8, the lower ranked team is going to the Orange Bowl.

Most Missouri fans took this blow in stride. We did hold our destiny in our own hands. Win against Oklahoma and Missouri would still be #1with the chance to end the season atop the polls as the national champion.

Plus, it has been a wonderful year. Nobody expected this much success for the Tigers, who were unranked heading into the year. For the first time since 1960, Mizzou was ranked #1. We had a Heisman Trophy finalist in quarterback Chase Daniels, and best of all we beat then #2 ranked Kansas to spoil their previously unblemished record.

Still as a Mizzou alum, I hated to see Kansas catch this break. I donít want it to sound like sour grapes, complaining about the situation too much, butÖ

Orange Bowl officials said they wanted the prestige of a one- loss team as opposed to a squad that had dropped two games. If that were the case why didnít they take undefeated Hawaii, they had about as weak a schedule this year as the Jayhawks did. According to CBSSports.com, among the 119 college football teams ranked in the SOS, Kansas had a relatively easy schedule, ranked only 74th for difficulty. Hawaiiís SOS of 118 likely kept the team from a shot at the national title despite being the lone undefeated team in the BCS. On the other hand, you have Missouri, which the national networkís sports crew says had the 4th most difficult schedule in all of college football.

Still the Orange Bowl wanted a one-loss team, one that did not even qualify for its own conference championship bowl game? How ironic it is that the BCS national championship game had to settle for a two-loss team. What makes the Orange Bowl think they are better?

Makes you wonder if there is any truth to the rumors that KU Athletic Director Lew Perkins had done some behind the scenes lobbying with Orange Bowl officials including pledges of guaranteed ticket sales. While the ticket sales talk may just be the creation of some jilted Mizzou fans, Perkins was quoted in an AP article prior to the BCS bowl announcements stating he had been talking to the powers that be in the BCS selection process the entire night before.

Okay maybe this latter argument really is just sour grapes, but it still makes good fodder for the rivalry.

I have to give credit to past Memphis visitors, coach Gary Pinkle and MU Ad Mike Alden. Neither man has spoken out against KU or the BCS, despite what all of the rest of us perceived as an injustice. Instead the university representatives point to the Cotton Bowl, the schoolís first January 1 bowl appearance in decades. Pinkle notes that this is an opportunity to travel back to Texas, one of his recruiting hotbeds, and try to eliminate the bad taste left by MUís Big 12 Title loss at San Antonio to Oklahoma. While the financial package has to be smaller than the Orange Bowl benefits for the school, Alden and the athletic department surely didnít have this big of a payday already figured into the budget, so that too will be a boon for the school.

I guess I should look at the positives as well. Not that I really needed another Jayhawk feather in my rivalry cap, but this will just make each and every future victory over our rivals that much sweeter.

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