College football traditions have a way of bringing together thousands of people across many generations. Some of the most well-known and iconic traditions in all of college football include, calling the hogs at Arkansas, the Sooner Schooner at Oklahoma, The Gator Chomp at Florida, the 12th Man at Texas A&M, the marching in at the Army vs. Navy game and the list goes on.
These traditions symbolize a resilient culture from the team and a die-hard loyalty from the fans, each one proving they are more so than the next.
But some traditions are lost in history.
From the time Missouri State opened its football program to the time Drury closed the door on theirs, the two cross-town schools were in a major rivalry, on and off the field.
Missouri State gradually became larger than Drury, so the rivalry was never the same again.
Later on, Missouri State and Rolla — now Missouri S&T — were both members of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, so a natural rivalry began.
From 1953-1980, the “Old Powder Keg” trophy went to the annual winner of the game.
That rivalry and tradition came to an end when Missouri State switched over to Division I and joined the Gateway Conference, which was later renamed to what is now the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
The Valley brought on a new set of opponents with new geographic proximities, placing Rolla on the back burner.
“This was not uncommon around this time among FCS and FBS schools,” alumni Scott Whiteley Carter said. “Conference realignment affects rivalries.”
Southeast Missouri State is another school that Missouri State would like to have been able to keep on their schedule. With the only other Division I football team being Mizzou in the FBS, SEMO is a natural same-state rival.
Because of college football scheduling, it just isn’t in the cards. Missouri State plays eight conference games each season. The Bears play up one game every year, which only leaves two nonconference games to schedule. And since the Bears have their football schedule made up through 2024, traditions are something that need to be planned out in advance unless it’s with a conference team.
“We don’t schedule SEMO as much as we’d like to,” Assistant Athletic Director Rick Kindhart said. Kindhart is also the Director of Athletic Communications.
But it wasn’t just football affected by the changes. The men’s basketball game against Cleveland State drew eight to nine thousand people to Hammons Student Center every year on Tuesday nights.
Once the Bears left the Mid-Continent Conference and joined the Missouri Valley, the Cleveland State rivalry ended. Decades later, the same thing happened to Creighton and Wichita State games. Once teams leave a conference, geography makes it very hard to keep teams on schedules every year.
“Those were always fun little knock-down-drag-out rivalry games,” Kindhart said. “Students loved to get involved and boo the other team.”
Conference realignment wasn’t the only factor affecting traditions.
“We used to have bonfires in the grassy area between McDonald Arena and what is now Plaster Stadium,” Carter said. “You could never get away with that now. The fire department wouldn’t allow it.”
As the country evolved and became more socially conscious, so did its college campuses which meant many traditions in football programs flew out the window.
Although it wasn’t unique to Missouri State, the days of trophy games and campus bonfires were long gone. So Missouri State invented a new tradition: BearFest Village.
“We’ve mastered the partying,” Kindhart said. “Now we just need students to stay for the game.”
Carter, a former student body vice president, said conversations are how BearFest Village came about and more conversations between the right people are needed to enhance the gameday experience even further.
Missouri State Student Body President Abdillahi Dirie said he would love to strike up a conversation with another Valley school about a fun tradition, but he wants to hear the students’ opinions and ideas.
“I still have a semester left, and while there are other initiatives that are more important on the list that I want to accomplish before my term ends, I wouldn’t completely rule it out,” Dirie said. “I think it would be easier if another student were interested in this topic as well to partner with to start the conversation.”
Dirie said he believes a new tradition with a new school could help boost school pride and spirit.
Statistically, the football home opener and homecoming are the two most well-attended games each year. Kindhart said he wouldn’t mind adding a third game to that list to drive up fan engagement.
Traditions and rivalries can be an easy, fun way to get behind your school no matter how the rest of the season is going, and it’s certainly a way to enhance fan experience — just ask an Aggie or a Sooner.
While it can be tough to institute traditions, they have to start at some point or they’ll never become part of history.