By Dave Wischnowsky –
(CBS) In the entire country, there is no nonconference college basketball rivalry better than Illinois-Missouri. But in all of America, there was no nonconference college football rivalry worse than Illinois-Missouri.
Nevertheless, the St. Louis Sports Commission wants to rekindle the series that saw the Illini and the Tigers clash on the gridiron at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis six times between 2002 and 2010, with Illinois losing each and every game.
On Thursday, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that “College football is a priority for the St. Louis Sports Commission, and the possibility of creating a bowl game or neutral site matchup continues to garner consideration and analysis from time to time. But the pursuit above all others for president Frank Viverito is to revive the Missouri-Illinois rivalry, and discussions have started in a bid to make that happen.”
Personally, I hated the Illinois-Missouri football games, one of which I attended in person. And once was enough. Unlike the incredible Illinois-Missouri Braggin’ Rights basketball game – which truly provides a neutral court setting with the Scottrade Center crowd split evenly between Illini and Tigers fans – the football series was always decidedly pro-Mizzou and not nearly as much fun. Especially with all the losses.
I’d estimate that the crowd at the Edward Jones Dome when I attended was at least 60-40 – and perhaps 65-35 – in favor of Missouri fans. Each year, Mizzou got to play the game in their home state’s biggest city and inside a dome, a venue where Illinois has traditionally found little success, as past scores at the Superdome, the Metrodome and Ford Field can attest. Indoor football also stinks in early September when the weather is beautiful.
Beyond all that, perhaps the worst part of the series was that the game was regularly played as the first of the season. And that meant that year after year – after year – Illinois would start out in an 0-1 hole, immediately putting a damper on fans’ spirits and a big crimp in the team’s bowl hopes.
If the definition of insanity truly is doing the same thing over and over again, than the Illinois program was downright bonkers.
Now, with all this said. It’s not that I’m averse to the Illini and Tigers playing football against each other again. But if they do end up reviving the rivalry, it had better not live strictly in St. Louis.
Thankfully, some others apparently seem to have enough wisdom to agree.
“It would be whatever the schools want it to be: two years or four years, alternate between St. Louis and Chicago or alternate between Champaign, Columbia and St. Louis,” Viverito said. “We just feel we bring something to the table to produce that game here relative to atmosphere, revenue and tradition. Both athletic directors have indicated a willingness to look at the game.”
And if the do, hopefully, Illinois AD Mike Thomas looks at the series far differently than his predecessor Ron Guenther did.
Because, the last thing I want to see is the same exact series.
That would be insane.
If nothing else, Dave Wischnowsky is an Illinois boy. Raised in Bourbonnais, educated at the University of Illinois and bred on sports in the Land of Lincoln, he now resides on Chicago’s North Side, just blocks from Wrigley Field. Formerly a reporter and blogger for the Chicago Tribune, Dave currently writes a syndicated column, The Wisch List, which you can check out via his blog at http://www.wischlist.com. Follow him on Twitter @wischlist and read more of his CBS Chicago blog entries here.