For the first time since 2003, the Providence Bowl, the annual football game between Columbia high schools Hickman and Rock Bridge, will not be played at Memorial Stadium.
On Friday, this year’s installment, named for the street the two schools share, will take place on Hickman’s LeMone Field.
This year’s shift in venue comes on the heels of Mizzou’s move to the Southeastern Conference. The new conference brought a new slate of home games and a schedule for which the high schools had not planned. Last season, the Tigers had a bye and the Providence Bowl went on as scheduled. This season, the schools were not so lucky. Missouri hosts non-conference opponent Arkansas State this weekend, forcing the high schools to change plans.
“It’s their facility,” Hickman High School athletic director Doug Mirts said. “If they’re using the facility, obviously we can’t play there.”
The schools also considered other possibilities, such as a Thursday night game. But after deliberation, the schools elected to return to a traditional high school venue, citing factors such as parking difficulty on Thursdays and the ongoing construction at Mizzou’s stadium.
“We just saw the obstacles, weighed the pluses and minuses and decided it would be good, for at least this year, to move it back to Hickman,” Mirts said. “We had the playoff game here last year and it was an incredible.”
The opening of Battle High School in Columbia this fall could complicate the scheduling of future Providence Bowls as well. The new school plays neither Hickman nor Rock Bridge this year, but will, come 2014, raising further questions of scheduling.
“We’re trying to equitable,” said Bruce Whitesides, athletic director of Columbia Public Schools. “It may alternate, there may be a rotation amongst the schools. If we can get those kids a chance to play on university facilities, that would be great.”
Regardless of where the games are played, Battle athletic director Matthew Hale understands the longstanding rivalry Hickman and Rock Bridge share.
“The Providence Bowl is the Providence Bowl,” Hale said. “That’s between Hickman and Rock Bridge. We don't want to change that at Battle.”
Battle High School also unveils brand new facilities this fall. Muriel W. Battle Field has yet to host either of its Columbia counterparts.
“Would it be great for our kids to play at Faurot Field? Absolutely,” Hale said. “But having those kids come to our place and play can be a great experience as well. They're already having positive experiences, even without the Providence Bowl.”