94-year wait ends Saturday for Bears-Tigers football

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Springfield, Mo. This Saturday marks will make history on the area athletic scene.

That's when the University of Missouri and Missouri State, the two biggest universities in the Show-Me State.. meet each other in football for the first time in 94-years.

Missouri State and Mizzou do meet each other in several athletic endeavors like baseball, women's basketball, swimming. But when it comes to the two most-high profile sports, football and men's basketball, Mizzou's attitude has long been that they have nothing to gain and everything to lose by taking Missouri St.

In men's basketball, the teams have only met four times with Missouri State winning the first and last meetings.

That last one came in 1998 when Steve Alford's Bears went up to Columbia to face legendary coach Norm Stewart and a hostile Tiger crowd that obviously looked down on the school then known as Southwest Missouri State.

But in a game that featured what is now simply known as 'the dunk', an emphatic slam by William Fontleroy that represented the Bears ability to stand with the big boys, SMS pulled out a 72-69 victory that set off a final-four-type celebration.

"They put in the paper big brother, little brother, Fontleroy said at the time. "We just wanted to come out and show that little brother could play too."

Since that surprise SMS victory, the schools haven't met on the basketball court again.

And the long-simmering rivalry even reared its head in 2005 when the University of Missouri system strongly opposed SMS' bid to change its regional name to one that better reflected its state-wide oriented mission.

And while Missouri State just set a new enrollment record of over 21-thousand students

Mizzou has seen its freshmen enrollment go down 35% over the past two years and had to cut 400 jobs and close down seven dorms.

"Frankly I think the University of Missouri system and the Missouri St. University system can both thrive, observed Missouri St. president Clif Smart. "Our state is plenty big enough for two robust thriving institutions."

While Mizzou will be a heavy favorite against the lower-division Bears, the first football meeting between the schools since 1923 has plenty of interest because second-year Missouri State head coach Dave Steckel came to Springfield from Mizzou, where he was the defensive coordinator, leaving the coaches on both sides feeling a bit strange.

"Very strange," Mizzou head coach Barry Odom emphasized. "He's a dear friend and I don't like competing against dear friends."

"I think the world of Barry Odom," Missouri St. head coach Dave Steckel said. "Coaches have a very unique bond."

A bond that will be put aside for a while on Saturday.

Read the original version of this article at www.ky3.com.