Come and Get Scrum
The Tigers-Jayhawks rivalry is alive and well.
Surrounded by sunlit country roads, wheat fields and paint-mottled barns fit for a postcard, the Mizzou rugby team trounced Kansas 40-17 April 5, 2014, at the KU club’s complex south of Lawrence, Kan.
The pastoral scene could have passed for 1891, when football’s Tigers and Jayhawks first met without high-tech pads or polycarbonate helmets. The Border Showdown, once the longest-running football rivalry west of the Mississippi River, continued until the final (for now) MU-KU game Nov. 26, 2011, at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo.
Rugby is a club sport, but the Missouri-Kansas rivalry is alive and well, and most Mizzou fans aren’t aware of the Tigers’ proud history.
“KU was one of our first opponents back in 1966–67, and we’ve played them annually ever since,” says Mizzou Coach Don Corwin, BSW ’81, who played on the club as a student.
The win improved Mizzou to 7-0-1 on the year, a mark they ran to 9-3-1 before falling 53-10 to host Bowling Green State University in the Elite Eight round of the national tournament April 27.
The Tiger ruggers, who were undersized against most opponents this season, utilized their team speed, agility and roster depth to accumulate wins. The KU contest was no different.
“At the end of the game, we had a whole different backline out there,” says Shane Glascott, team captain and a junior accountancy major from Wildwood, Mo. “As you can see, [the Jayhawks] were a lot bigger than us today — everyone’s bigger than us, really — but we’ve got a lot of speed on the outside, and we’re physical. That’s been tough for teams to deal with.” Mizzou and Kansas are charter members of the Heart of America Rugby Football Union, founded in 1967. The rare opportunity to relive the rivalry brought out rugby alumnus James Clark, BS BA ’70, of Lenexa, Kan.
“We won the first Heart of America Tournament in 1969, back when it was played at Swope Park in Kansas City, Mo.,” says Clark, who played on Mizzou’s triumphant B squad, filling in for the out-of-town A squad that day. “I very well remember the Kansas games — those were always big games. We even had a party for them afterward.”
Muddied and bloodied, today’s teams maintained the jubilant tradition by retiring to Johnny’s
Tavern. The Lawrence watering hole has served as the Kansas Jayhawks Rugby Football Club’s home for most of its history.
The camaraderie and competition left spectators and athletes alike hoping for a unilateral rivalry revival between the schools.
“I’m hopeful we’ll see the two [football] teams play at Arrowhead again someday,” Clark says.