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Stakes are high in college rivalries: trophies, pigs, bacon and more

Floyd of Rosedale

Floyd of Rosedale, if you have not made his acquaintance, is a traveling pig. A traveling bronze pig.

He was named after Minnesota Governor Floyd B. Olson, who, thanks to the University of Minnesota’s 13-6 victory over the University of Iowa in 1935, won a genuine Iowa hog (donated from Rosedale Farms) in a bet with Governor Clyde Henning. (The trio is shown below; that’s Gov. Olson on the right.) For the next meeting between the Golden Gophers and Hawkeyes, Governor Olson commissioned a bronze image of big Floyd to be given to the victor. It has served as the symbol of the rivalry ever since, traveling to the campus of the victor each year.

Floyd B. Olson

Foremost among the arguments made in favor of college football is that it has the best regular season of any sport at any level. Each game carries weight in determining a team’s postseason future; one ill-timed loss may sink a season. Excitement and tension levels are raised from the very first kickoff in late summer, and heighten from there with every win.

And then there’s the Floyd of Rosedale factor. Regardless of whether Iowa has a spectacular season, as the Hawkeyes are enjoying this year, or a disappointing campaign, their regular-season game against Minnesota means something. The bragging rights matter. The history, dating back to 1935 for Floyd and back to 1891 for the series as a whole, matters. A bronze pig representing pride is on the line.

This year, Floyd belongs to the fine folks of Iowa – the Hawkeyes outscored the Golden Gophers, 40-35, on November 14.

Paul Bunyan's Axe

Slab of BaconTrophies have lent a sense of greater meaning to all-time series for many decades now. Minnesota’s Border Battle against Wisconsin began in 1890. It continues this weekend in the Big Ten regular-season finale against the Badgers. The winner Saturday receives Paul Bunyan’s Axe, first fought over in 1948. (The ceremonial incentive during the previous decade was, honestly, the Slab of Bacon.)

The Midwest’s biggest teams do not have a monopoly on game trophies, although it certainly features both the tradition and the pomp and circumstance necessary. Michigan State plays for the Paul Bunyan Trophy against Michigan and the Old Brass Spittoon against Indiana. Minnesota and Michigan contest the Little Brown Jug. Iowa faces Wisconsin for the Heartland Trophy and intrastate rival Iowa State for the Cy-Hawk Trophy. Purdue battles Illinois for the Purdue Cannon and Indiana for the Old Oaken Bucket, the latter to be determined this weekend.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish currently boast six trophies in their case: the Megaphone Trophy (Michigan State), Frank Leahy Memorial Bowl (Boston College), Shillelagh Trophy (Purdue), Rip Miller Trophy (Navy), Jeweled Shillelagh (Southern Cal), and the Legends Trophy, which will be vied for against Stanford this Saturday. The Jeweled Shillelagh received its grand debut in 1952, thanks to the Notre Dame Alumni Club of Los Angeles. Every Notre Dame win brings a new emerald to the Shillelagh; every USC triumph adds an inscribed ruby to the trophy. With such a treasure, you can understand why the Trojans would be reticent to give up the Jeweled Shillelagh. After they lost to the Irish 41-31 this season, they did not promptly relinquish the trophy. They couldn’t. They had forgotten it back home in Pasadena.

Old Oaken BucketAside from the Old Oaken Bucket (shown at right), Paul Bunyan’s Axe, and the Legends Trophy, this Saturday will see a battle for the Golden Egg (Ole Miss and Mississippi State), the Apple Cup Trophy (Washington and Washington State), the Land of Lincoln Trophy (Illinois and Northwestern) and the Old Wagon Wheel (BYU and Utah State). The Old Oaken Bucket has the most history behind it, dating back to 1925, thus topping the Golden Egg by one year. Placed side by side, the Legends Trophy, Apple Cup Trophy, Golden Egg look the most like one’s mental image of a glorious, desirable trophy, gleaming in the sunlight. The Land of Lincoln Trophy is the most recent, dating back to only 2009 (in replacing the Sweet Sioux Tomahawk), a golden Lincolnesque top hat on a relatively slender base. That leaves the Old Wagon Wheel, which is exactly that. It was birthed in 1948 as a representation of the transportation that brought Mormon settlers to Utah, and now rolls the 126 miles between Provo and Logan to bring added motivation to the Cougars/Aggies’ rivalry.

This is what it comes down to: A wagon wheel, a jug, a spittoon, and a bronze pig. And with them, all of the emotion or heartbreak in the world.

These aren’t postseason bowl games. In certain ways, they’re much, much bigger.

Image of Paul Bunyan’s Axe courtesy University of Wisconsin. Photo of Gov. Floyd B. Olson and

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August Publications