Arrowhead experiment is done

The Kansas Jayhawks and Missouri Tigers may have two years left on the contract to play the Border War at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, but Phog.net's Jim Williamson explains why this is one baby that should be put to bed as soon as possible.

If you were a member of the media at Saturday's Border War, the most exciting thing about covering it was the nearly-overwhelming selection of halftime press box cookies. It was a vast sea of baked goodness. Remember Kamino, the ocean planet in "Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones?" It was a veritable Kamino of cookies.

That was the highlight of Missouri's 35-7 rout of Kansas. And don't judge me for knowing the name of that planet in Star Wars.

This game had all the atmosphere of a grocery store ribbon cutting without the free balloons and hot dogs for the kids.

I'm not saying that because KU got rolled. I've seen the Jayhawks get rolled in plenty of season finales with Mizzou. That's not what this is about.

This game was simply a perfect storm of boredom.

Perhaps the biggest factor in creating this snoozefest is that neither team was playing for anything meaningful. Nebraska's win over Colorado in the "Don't Let the Door Hit You in the Butt on the Way Out" Bowl Friday locked Missouri out of the Big 12 championship game. A win over KU really couldn't improve their bowl game. Other than being able to say they beat their arch-rival – their really bad arch-rival – Missouri was phoning it in.

On the other side of the field, there was the truly baffling decision by KU head coach Turner Gill to replace his starting quarterback the last four weeks, Quinn Mecham, with the pedestrian-but-healthy Jordan Webb. Beyond that, though, Kansas was playing for pride. Problem is, when you're counting down the days until the end of a dismal season, you just want it to be over.

No one from either team came out of the tunnel jumping up and down to start the game. The coin toss and handshake was rated G. There was minimal pushing, shoving or bottom-of-the-pile junk-grabbing – on the field, anyway.

The game started. Missouri moved the ball at will until they got bored (ever see a kitten play with a ball of yarn and then lose interest?). KU stunk. Then we went home.

The official attendance was announced at 55,000. It wasn't even near that. Call it 42,500. And don't blame Kansas fans. The Missouri side wasn't jam-packed, either. This was mutual non-attendance.

The Arrowhead experiment is an amazing thing when the two teams come in undefeated and there are serious national championship implications and College Game Day makes Kansas City the center of the college football universe for a day (see 2007). To be fair, this first KU-Mizzou game at Arrowhead may have set the bar astronomically high for those that would come after it.

Playing at Arrowhead is still a great idea when the two teams come in with conference title implications – even when it's only for one of the participants (see 2008). One team has a shot to represent their division in the conference championship game; the other has the delicious chance to either keep them from doing so or to send them off on a sour note to get rolled by whoever the Big 12 South decides to trot out that particular year. This is as opposed to winning big and then getting rolled by whoever the Big 12 South decides to trot out.

But when the Border War is just another game – and a crappy one, at that – and 35,000 fans show up as empty seats, the result is what so many fans in Lawrence and Columbia said it would be five years ago: a lousy game in a lousy venue.

Put that same bad game in Memorial Stadium – or at Faurot Field, for that matter – and it's huge. Forty-five thousand fans in Arrowhead looks empty; 45,000 at Memorial or Faurot is a good crowd. The Eldridge and Holidome are booked. The bars and restaurants are full. Downtown retail businesses welcomes thousands of once-a-year customers and their checkbooks. The Union bookstore is packed with people paying $48 for a $15 sweatshirt. The Douglas County lockdown sees brisk business. It's good for everyone.

And to add insult to injury, the Arrowhead experiment is just one more in a big pile of Lew Perkins ideas that has lost its luster.

I'm going to keep my fingers crossed that after honoring KU's current commitment to the Border War East, our new athletic director greets Chiefs' GM Scott Pioli's invitation to come back with a giggle and a heartfelt, "Are you nuts?"

To do so would fly in the face of what college sports is about: namely, money. I'm probably naïve for thinking there's a chance that we'll see a Kansas-Missouri game in either Columbia or Lawrence in the foreseeable future.

But as a friend said, yesterday's attendance was reminiscent of the end of the Herm Edwards era with the Chiefs. If Kansas had beaten Missouri yesterday, all other things being equal, I'd be writing that KU won a lousy game in a bad atmosphere.

Arrowhead is a fun, novel idea that's run its course. Bring it back to campus.


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