Column: Missouri, Illinois may rekindle ‘Arch’ Rivalry

The two schools have played one another on and off since 1896. Tags: football.

Well, get ready for bloody battle on the gridiron, folks. We’ve got a doozy of a matchup returning to college football.

After three long and tiresome seasons, it would seem that Missouri and Illinois, known for their “Braggin’ Rights” game on the hardwood, will renew the rivalry in a different sport: football.

St. Louis Sports Commission President Frank Viverito has begun to pursue relaunching the rivalry between Missouri and Illinois, citing the matchup as one the commission’s “greatest endeavors.” According to reports, both schools are in talks to play again. It requires, however, working around a few scheduling conflicts.

I think I speak for everyone when I say I am exhilarated by the possibility of once again pitting these two foes against each other. So let’s open up this can of worms.

This rivalry is filled with “tradition.” Before the rivalry ended two years ago, the teams played every single year since 1896 — except for 1897-1912, 1914-1948, 1950-1965, 1967, 1970-1975, 1981-1982, 1985-1992, 1994-2002, 2004-2006 and 2010-present. What a rivalry!

But hey, the years they did play each other, we saw some great duels. When the Illinois team won the inaugural game 10-0, it started a streak of domination where it won seven games against Missouri since the 1800s. Now that’s impressive.

Some of our elder readers may remember when the Tigers won some nail biters, like in the fifth all-time meeting between these two in 1968 (yes 72 years after the first meeting) when Missouri barely won 44-0. A year after that (yes, they actually did, from time to time, play two consecutive seasons), Illinois inflicted its revenge on Missouri, this time scoring six points instead of zero, in a 37-6 loss.

Over the years in this historic game, Missouri has taken part in some truly memorable games that have stood the test of time. The scoreboard curved in Missouri's favor with wins of 45-3, 52-7, 31-3, 28-18, 33-20, 37-9, among others, and a 23-13 resounding finale win in the last game between the two.

Now to be fair, it would be in poor taste to not report on the Illinois wins. They did snag victory from the jaws of defeat 34-7 in 1913 (we’re already counting down the days till the 100 year anniversary of that game) and 42-0 in 1994.

In 2002, the bad blood between the two would truly show itself. The schools started meeting on a neutral site in St. Louis for the glorified “Arch Rivalry Game.” Those clever devils.

They played it in the revered and historic Edward Jones Dome, a classic and special venue.

They even scheduled the game at the beginning of the season, so as to emphasize its importance (and playing indoors made it possible to avoid those frigid September temperatures).

In the six seasons it existed, the “Arch” rivalry was a hotly contested game, that is, if you consider “hotly contested” to mean one-sided. Missouri won the game every year they met at The Dome. But we can’t discredit the Illini for trying. Their refusal to give up — except for briefly between 2004 and 2007 — all the way until 2010 is truly a display of the warrior in Illinois, especially against a powerhouse football program like Missouri. The Tigers, after all, have so many championships (0) under their belt. It’s a wonder why Illinois even tried playing this rivalry to begin with.

But if you’re the type of person that enjoys this type of competition, then you might be in store for a real treat. Missouri and Illinois appear to be set for renewing their rivalry, and although the site of the matchup is still up in the air, we could see the game returning to the campuses. How can you argue with the chance to return this game to a battle of the elements in an outdoor environment?

While these talks are only in the preliminary stages, both athletic departments have expressed interest in beginning another series on the football field. And it would seem that this rivalry could in fact be reawakened within two years.

I, for one, am riveted it will be salvaged. Year after year (between the years after years) this game was highly anticipated and was a true expression of the hatred between these two programs. What a great decision to try this rivalry again. More than 100 years of tradition are at stake, and it will be refreshing to see the Black and Gold facing off with that Orange and Blue once more.

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