No Jayhawks on Missouri plates, but Razorbacks are OK

A Kansas Jayhawk on Show-Me state license plates? Missouri lawmakers resoundingly said “no way.” But an Arkansas Razorback? That still might be OK.

Officials in Missouri are trying to ease restrictions on specialty license plates from out-of-state colleges after a prohibition aimed at the University of Missouri's traditional nemesis, the University of Kansas, appears to have inadvertently affected budding rival in the University of Arkansas, as well as Pittsburg State University in southeastern Kansas.

Missouri Rep. Lyle Rowland, whose state House district abuts the Arkansas border, said the prohibition approved last year has been interpreted to apply to all out-of-state schools and that some people already have a Razorback on their license plates.

“I had a lot of my people – since I border Arkansas – down here that were alumni of the University of Arkansas, and they love their Hog plates,” said Rowland, R-Cedarcreek.

The Arkansas Alumni Association license plate has “Missouri” printed on top with the Razorbacks' hog logo on the left. The alumni association said there are more than 4,000 Arkansas graduates in Missouri and that it also has special license plates in Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas. The Missouri Department of Revenue declined to provide figures for how many Razorbacks specialty license plates have been issued in recent years.

For its part, the University of Missouri Alumni Association has specialty license plates in Missouri and Texas.

Missouri's license plate restrictions also have affected Pittsburg State University, which is about five miles west of the Missouri border. The school last year sent applications from motorists for the plates. However, the university was told by Missouri officials that the state no longer would issue collegiate specialty license plates for organizations representing out-of-state schools, and application fees were refunded.

The license plate was to say “Pittsburg State University” at the bottom with the school's gorilla mascot on the left side. Officials said about 17 percent of Pittsburg State students came from Missouri during the fall 2012 semester and that 10,000 to 11,000 graduates live in Missouri.

Now, Missouri lawmakers are trying to knock down some of the prohibitions they erected last year. Proposals would carve out colleges and universities that already were approved to offer a specialty license plate before last year's law took effect Aug. 28, 2012. The reversal could apply to both schools and is included within broader measures dealing with motor vehicles that won final approval before the Legislature's mandatory mid-May adjournment.

It means well-known Missouri Tigers supporter Gov. Jay Nixon will decide by mid-July whether to welcome a license plate from a Southeastern Conference opponent of his alma mater. The Missouri Tigers and Arkansas Razorbacks are in separate divisions within the conference, but the league has announced that the schools will become cross-division rivals. That means Missouri and Arkansas would play each other every season in football and will play twice each season in basketball.

Democratic Rep. Chris Kelly, whose district includes part of the University of Missouri-Columbia campus, joked during the House's debate that preserving a specialty license plate for Arkansas is in some Missourians' interest.

“If this is not passed and people cannot get Arkansas Razorback license plates, no one in Greene County will be able to have pizza delivered,” Kelly said.