Bitter Border Battle
PSU, MSSU 40 year rivalry continues
Tyler Smith | reporter
Rivalries are what make the college experience an unforgettable one. For many, school pride is in their blood and they will defend it at any cost.
For Pitt State that is no different. With MIAA conference foes like Northwest Missouri being such a bitter rival, the teams must meet at a neutral site: Arrowhead Stadium.
It is much the same for nearby conference rival Missouri Southern University that the Gorillas played in football against for decades.
The two teams competed against each other in football 45 times going all the way back to 1968, which also happened to be the first year MSSU became a four-year university.
Since that time the Gorillas have won all but nine of the match-ups, yet it still has an unforgettable history.
“When I came here in 1976 it was a bitter rivalry,” said John Pierce, head recruiting coordinator. “In fact, I remember the first game my freshman year there was a bench clearing brawl during the game.”
Pierce, who also deals with Pitt State’s kickoff return and punt coverage teams, says that facing Missouri Southern is always a huge deal for the school’s sports teams, especially football.
Joplin, Mo., and Pittsburg produce a lot of athletes for the two schools’ sports programs, and recruiting between the two can add a little more heat to the rivalry given the closeness of the two cities.
“Well, I think both schools being so close, we recruit a lot of the same players so we’re in competition for that,” Pierce said. “And then you don’t want to lose to your neighbors next door, ever.”
Pierce says that recruiting for players goes both ways and that sometimes it doesn’t end up in PSU’s favor.
“There are players that have come from Pittsburg that have gone down there and played and players from Joplin and Webb City that come here and play,” Pierce said. “There just has never been a lot of love lost between the schools.”
With an average football matchup attendance of 8,000 fans, the games between the two schools generate so much interest that the Sonic Trophy Series, to commemorate the two teams’ competitive history, was created.
“I don’t see it changing because there seems to be a little added emphasis in any sport when Pittsburg State and Missouri Southern play,” Pierce said. “I just see that continuing on.”
A single point is given to each sport for the university that wins and the school with the most points at the end of the year is declared the winner and given a trophy.
Although the game is at its most heated moments when the football teams play, the rivalry carries over to other sports as well, including the upcoming basketball games Wednesday, Feb. 27, at PSU.