There’s nothing wrong with a little school rivalry right? You trash talk to each other, commit petty vandalism by putting your colors on an opponent’s mascot, and every time a member of a rival school walks by wearing their school colors you boo them.
Between colleges in the Big Ten, football rivalries are heated and the close proximity of the schools means feathers are always going to be ruffled. Michigan frats guard the giant ‘M’ from Michigan State students trying to spray paint it green, Purdue drives a locomotive through the streets of away game towns the night before the match, and Ohio State students key any car with a Michigan license plate every year ‘The Game’ is played in the Horseshoe.
But it’s not just the students who get involved and it’s not just pride on the line. In many cases, Big Ten rival teams are fighting for the tangible proof of superiority – the trophy.
- Sweet Sioux Tomahawk/Land of Lincoln Trophy – both of these trophies are part of the Northwestern – Illinois rivalry. The Sweet Sioux Tomahawk, which used to be a carved wooden cigar store Indian that got stolen and thus was replaced by a replica of a tomahawk, was given to the winner of the football game between the two of them. In 2008, the NCAA ruled that Native American imagery must be removed and so the Tomahawk was replaced by the Land of Lincoln Trophy, a bronze replica of a stovepipe hat that Abraham Lincoln famously wore.
- Illibuck – goes to the winner of the Illinois – Ohio State game. The first trophy was a live turtle in 1925 shuttled between schools, but when it died a wooden turtle took it’s place. The games scores are carved into its back and to date 10 turtles have been used.
- Purdue Cannon – is presented to the winner of the Purdue – Illinois football game. It’s a real cannon that the Boilers planned to set off in celebration in 1905, but a group of Illinois students got to it first and hid it. It gathered dust for years in a student's shed and was turned into a rival trophy in 1943.
- Old Oaken Bucket – given to the winner of the Indiana – Purdue football game. This trophy essentially is an old oaken bucket and was first played for in 1925. The game ended in a zero-zero tie.
- Old Brass Spittoon - given to the winner of the Indiana – Michigan State football game. Michigan State devised the idea in 1950, and since then has dominated the series with 40 wins over Indiana’s 12 loses.
- Floyd of Rosedale – awarded to the winner of the Iowa – Minnesota game. Floyd is actually a bronze big, and is biased on a bet of a prize hog between the governors of the two states in 1935. The hog given to Iowa’s governor came from Rosedale farms and was named Floyd after the governor. The pig did not live long enough to make it to next year’s game, so a sculpture was made in his image and has been passed between the schools ever since.
- Heartland Trophy – goes to the winner of the Iowa – Wisconsin football game. The rivalry is old, but the Heartland’s first game was in 2004. With the new divisions in the Big Ten conference, these two schools will no longer play each other every year.
- Paul Bunyan – Governor of Michigan Trophy - given to the winner of the Michigan – Michigan State game. This four ft wooden statue of Paul Bunyan on a five ft base was first given out by the governor of Michigan in 1953 for the very first game between the teams after Michigan State joined the Big Ten conference.
- Little Brown Jug – given to the winner of the Minnesota – Michigan game. This trophy is the oldest in the Big Ten Conference, going back to 1903. The five-gallon jug was bought because the Michigan coach thought Minnesota fans might contaminate his water. After the game, Coach Yost left the jug because he no longer needed it and Minnesota painted it brown and added the game’s tie score on the side. When Yost asked for the jug back later, he was told he would have to win it back and the jug has been travelling between the teams since.
- Land Grant Trophy – goes to the winner of the Michigan State – Penn State football game. The two teams had been declared rivals in 1993 upon Penn State’s admittance to the Big Ten, but now that they are in different divisions for the 2011 season they are no longer have a permanent showdown.
- Slab of Bacon/Paul Bunyan’s Axe - awarded to the winner of the Wisconsin – Minnesota game. These two teams have being playing each other since 1890 but it wasn’t until 1930 that the Slab of Bacon trophy was created out of a piece of black walnut wood. In 1943, the Minnesota coach refused to accept it on the statement that trophies should not be awarded during the war and the Slab of Bacon went missing until it was found in 1994, with scores up to 1970 on the back meaning someone had maintained it. While the Bacon was missing, the two schools played for Paul Bunyan’s Axe instead starting in 1948 and it is the trophy currently exchanged between the schools. The Bacon still rests with Wisconsin, but it’s no longer awarded at the game.
- Governor’s Victory Bell – given to the winner of the Penn State – Minnesota football game. Another trophy to be created upon Penn State’s acceptance to the Big 10, this was presented in their first conference game ever and Penn State won.
Known simply as ‘The Game’, the Michigan – Ohio State rivalry has been ranked by ESPN as the greatest North American sports rivalry. The two football teams have met 107 times and it’s usually their match up that determines the Big 10 Conference title and Rose Bowl match ups. Since 1935 the match between these two schools has happened at the end of each season. While the schools will be in different division in the new Big Ten Conference set up come 2011, their rivalry is protected and they’ll play each other every year.
Despite all this, the only thing they are playing for is pride.
There is no symbol or trophy passed between the schools, and perhaps that is a good things because relationships between the two fan bases are tense enough as it is.
The newer rivalry between Ohio State and Penn State also does not have a trophy that the winning team can hold aloft. But short history behind it doesn’t match the fervor surrounding the Michigan – Ohio State game, and perhaps a trophy would help out in that regard.