Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Tuesday Top Ten: Favorite Big Ten Football Rivalry Trophies

This is the most revered and precious weekend in college football:  Rivalry Weekend.  All across the country, students, alumni, and fans will be gathering to watch their favorite university's team try to obliterate their least-favorite university's team.

As you should be keenly aware of by now, I went to Indiana and, therefore, I despise Purdue.  Those shit stains from West Lafayette make the trek down to Heaven on Earth (Bloomington) this Saturday.  While Purdue has played itself out of bowl eligibility for the 4th straight year, IU is 5-6 and, with a win, will clinch its second consecutive bowl berth for the first time since 1991.  More importantly, a Hoosier victory would be the fourth in a row over the Boilermakers, which means the Old Oaken Bucket's stay in Bloomington would match its longest stay ever (1944-1947).  Here's a shot of several IU players carrying the Bucket after last year's 54-36 win over Purdue at Ross-Aid Stadium.
The Old Oaken Bucket is one of 15 in-conference rivalry trophies in the Big Ten.  Many of those trophies are iconic, while some are too new or too ugly to be worthy of recognition in the greater college football landscape.  With that, fair reader, I set out to rank my ten favorite Big Ten football rivalry trophies.  Please remember that these are only in-conference trophies (sorry Crab Bowl Trophy lovers).

Here are the trophies that didn't make the cut:  Heartland Trophy (Iowa/Wisconsin); Heroes Trophy (Iowa/Nebraska); The Land Grant Trophy (Michigan State/Penn State); Governor's Bell Trophy (Minnesota/Penn State); Freedom Trophy (Nebraska/Wisconsin)

10.  Purdue Cannon (Illinois/Purdue)

It was hard for me to include a trophy between my least favorite two Big Ten teams on this list, but given the other options, it's hard to pass up an adorable toy cannon for a bell or whatever the fuck the Land Grant Trophy is.

9.  Paul Bunyan Trophy (Michigan/Michigan State)
This is a massive trophy -- a four foot wooden statue of Paul Bunyan that sits on a five-foot base -- that Michigan Governor G. Mennen Williams presented in 1953 to commemorate Michigan State joining the Big Ten.  The funny thing is that neither school really seemed to want it for the first few years, but they eventually warmed up to it.

8.  $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy (Minnesota/Nebraska)
This makes the list solely because it is likely the first college football rivalry trophy that came about because of a Twitter wager and crowdsourcing.  The Twitter account for Minnesota's mascot, Goldy Gopher, and the account Faux Pellini (a fake account for Bo Pellini, Nebraska's now-former coach) exchanged some friendly banter, and decided to wager on the game, when Faux Pellini suggested that, if Nebraska won, Goldy would give Faux Pellini $5, and if Minnesota won, Faux Pellini would get to smash a wooden chair over Goldy's back.  It seemed like a bad bet for Goldy, yet someone made a trophy to commemorate the wager, and the trophy was actually given to the winner of the 2014 and 2015 games, but then it disappeared this year.  Both schools then said it was never really an official trophy anyway, so there are no plans to bring it back.

7.  The Old Brass Spittoon (Indiana/Michigan State)

This is a strange trophy, given that spittoons are fucking disgusting and are not particularly associated with Indiana or Michigan.  Nonetheless, since 1950, IU and MSU have played for a brass spittoon, and an old one at that.

6.  The Sweet Sioux Tomahawk (Illinois/Northwestern)

It's a tomahawk, so that's awesome.  However, in 2008 -- in the wake of the NCAA's mandate that anything that might be deemed offensive to Native Americans be banned -- it was replaced by the Land of Lincoln Trophy -- a stovepipe hat that hides and protects hair and scalps, quite the opposite of a tomahawk.

5.  The Little Brown Jug (Michigan/Minnesota)

Believed to be the oldest trophy in college football, the Little Brown Jug was purchased as a water jug by a Michigan student manager in 1903 at the behest of Wolverines head coach Fielding Yost, who was afraid Minnesota would tamper with Michigan's water supply.  Yost left the jug behind after the game, and a Minnesota custodian found it and kept it.  The teams decided that the jug would go to the winner of their football games starting in 1909.

4.  The Illibuck Trophy (Illinois/Ohio State)

The Illibuck is a wooden turtle, which might seem odd, since one doesn't think of turtles when thinking about Illinois or Ohio.  Apparently, the teams initially exchanged a live turtle, as a symbol of longevity, but realized at some point that the rivalry would outlive your garden variety Midwestern turtle.  The scores of each game are written on the back of the turtle, and there have been ten turtles total, since people apparently can't write small enough.

3.  Floyd of Rosedale (Iowa/Minnesota)

It's a bronze pig.  Does it get more Midwestern than that?

2.  Paul Bunyan's Axe (Minnesota/Wisconsin)

After the previous trophy -- I kid you not, called the Slab of Bacon -- disappeared, Wisconsin's letterwinners' association came up with Paul Bunyan's Axe, a six-foot-tall axe, which has been the trophy since 1948. The score of each game is written on the handle, and the original axe was retired in 2003.  No matter which team wins, it's always fun watching players sprint to sideline, grab the axe, and run around the field with it.  They used to have a tradition of "chopping down" the loser's goalpost with the axe, but they stopped that a few years ago when Minnesota's players circled their goalpost and wouldn't let Wisconsin players chop it down.  They still had an axe, so I'm pretty sure they could have chopped it down if they wanted to.

1.  The Old Oaken Bucket (Indiana/Purdue)

Obviously, I'm quite biased, but the Old Oaken Bucket is my favorite college football trophy.  In 1925, the Indiana and Purdue alumni association chapters in Chicago decided, rightfully so, that the winner of the annual football game between the two schools should get a trophy.  They decided that it should be an "old oaken bucket" from a well in Indiana, and a chain would be created to show each year's winner, with the date of the game and the score engraved on each link.  When IU wins, a brass "I" is added to the chain, when Purdue wins, a brass "P" is added, and back when there were ties, a brass "IP" was added.  The Old Oaken Bucket was found on a farm in Southern Indiana, and it dates back to the 1840s, making it the oldest trophy in college football.  And as a result of all of those brass letters, the Bucket is heavy as hell.  I've had the pleasure of touching it, holding it, caressing it a few times.  Last week, I took this picture at an alumni event in Chicago, and you can see the extent of the massive chain that the Bucket holds.

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