IOWA CITY — After more than 100 years of residing side-by-side one another in ignorance and recent contempt, Iowa and Missouri finally will meet on the football field.
The game site is neutral, which is how the schools felt about one another for 90-plus years. And it’s neutral, which probably is a good thing considering the schools bitterly canceled a four-year series that was slated from 2005 through 2008.
The border schools were selected Sunday to play in Dec. 28’s Insight Bowl in Tempe, Ariz., their first meeting since 1910 and 13th overall. Iowa (7-5) fell in the Big Ten’s pecking order after suffering three consecutive losses to end the season. The Outback Bowl picked Penn State (7-5), while the Gator selected Michigan (7-5). Iowa defeated both teams in the regular season by double-digit scores.
Missouri (10-2) was the Big 12 North Division runner-up, but the Insight Bowl selected the Tigers ahead of division champion Nebraska (10-3). The Cornhuskers are notorious for traveling to bowl games, which made that decision perplexing.
Either way, the teams that share a border and color scheme but little else will meet in Phoenix.
“They’re a (10-2) football team,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Gary Pinkel has done a great job ever since he got to Missouri, and they’ve had a lot of good football teams in recent history. This looks like another good version. I know they’ve got an outstanding quarterback and a lot of good football players.”
The recent history between the programs is turbulent. The schools had a four-year agreement to play from 2005 through 2008, but Missouri backed out of the first two years to schedule other opponents. Iowa then voided the final two years of the deal and was forced to scramble to complete its schedule.
“When we first got here we adjusted our schedule a little bit because they are good,” Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel said. “We were building our program, and it didn’t make a lot of sense for me to play such a great football program. So that was working with (Missouri Athletics Director) Mike Alden, and I would say that was a good decision.”
In 2005, Iowa was coming off three consecutive top-10 finishes, while Missouri had losing seasons in five of the previous six years. Missouri replaced Iowa with a road game in Kansas City against Arkansas State in 2005 and then with a two-game series against Ole Miss.
For Ferentz, that situation is ancient history.
“I’ve never had any feelings anyway,” Ferentz said. “It didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. We moved on, they did, too. I know just they’ve got an excellent football team, and it’s going to be a real challenge for us to play them.”
Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta was not at Iowa when the series was canceled. He said there’s no lingering residue and there’s mutual respect between the programs.
“First of all, I think a lot of time has passed,” Barta said. “In football years five years seems like a lot of years. They’re a great football program.
“I know that there was a lot of pent-up feelings about that particular situation when it all occurred, but it had sort of run its course before I got here, and I really haven’t heard any of it in this building. We’re just ready to take on a great opponent.”
When asked if Missouri would back out, Barta smiled and said, “Missouri is a great team. Can’t wait to play them.”
The final destination ended a whirlwind day for Iowa officials, who were unsure where — or who — they would play in a bowl game. Barta said he never was informed by the Outback or Gator bowl officials about why they passed on the Hawkeyes but speculated it was Iowa’s poor November finish that left the team vulnerable to being passed.
Barta said he received the Insight Bowl’s official invitation around 3:30 p.m. and didn’t find out about Missouri until late afternoon. He said he followed the speculation about Nebraska throughout the day.
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“I know that Nebraska is somebody that they were talking about at least,” he said.Iowa, which is designated the home team, will receive 11,000 tickets for the game and already have more than 2,000 orders, ticket director Pam Finke said. The stands at Sun Devil Stadium are divided in half between the different sides.