The other day, our Griffin Whitmer wrote a post on how Chris Ash would like to have a rivalry game. I’m pretty sure Ash is smarter than UConn coach Bob Diaco who unilaterally created a “rivalry trophy” for their game with South Florida. And gave it a name. Without telling USF.
There are scads of rivalry games in college football (more on that below). Many of them go back decades...generations even. And some are more recent, evolving out of long-standing continuing play between schools....or because there was something to gain, possibly financial. It’s part of what makes college football great. It excites the fans and the players; it highlights key games on the schedule.
Then there’s Rutgers. ** deep sigh **
Our historic rivals don’t play us anymore. They don’t want to play us. They physically can’t play us. Princeton, Lafayette, Lehigh. All in the past.
My suggestion is the Mason-Dixon Trophy. Never mind that the Mason-Dixon Line established the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania. If you extend the line eastward, it crosses southern New Jersey. Done.
Actually, all of you guys had some great ideas for names in the comments yesterday. Better than mine. But I do like my map and trophy.
But maybe the bigger issue to look at is the whole idea of rivalries. Bob Diaco is not alone in creating “rivalries” that are, uhhhh....unusual. The Bronze Stalk between Ball State and Northern Illinois? The Don Shula Award, the pivotal battle between FAU - FIU (maybe it should be the “FAU-FIU-4-DSA”). The Paniolo Trophy between Hawaii and Wyoming. Hawaii and Wyoming? Really?
So looking at those few, the Mason-Dixon doesn’t seem unusual at all.
How about “creativity” in the name? There are three rivalry games that play for the Victory Bell: USC - UCLA, North Carolina - Duke, and Miami (OH) - Cincinnati. Three more play for the Governor's Cup: Georgia - Georgia Tech, Kansas- Kansas St, and Kentucky- Louisville.
But if you want real, true, down-to-earth creativity, try Oregon-Oregon State. They have their Civil War every year; that makes sense and incites passion. And they play for the Platypus Trophy. It really is called that. Why, you ask? Because, as Wikipedia - the source of all knowledge - says, “The trophy depicts a platypus, an animal which has features of both a duck (Oregon's mascot) and a beaver (Oregon State's mascot).”
And if you’re into collecting, you can actually buy replicas of a lot of these trophies. especially the Big Ten ones. Which brings us to....
No one beats the Big Ten
Why? Because.....we’re the Big Ten.
According to one list I found, there are 163 rivalry games out there, with 83 involving actual “trophies”. Of the 163, there are 29 games involving a Big Ten team as one of the participants (~ 18%) and 19 have trophies (~23%).
Take the Little Brown Jug, the game between Michigan and Minnesota. The one that claims to be the oldest such rivalry. It had meaning and was started because....well, you thought Harbaugh was nuts? Here’s what the Michigan website says about the rivalry/trophy.
While the jug rivalry started in 1909, the story began six years earlier when the teams battled in Minneapolis. Heading into that 1903 contest, Michigan was undefeated in 29 straight games, while the Golden Gophers came into the game with a 10-0 record. Having doubts that Minnesota would provide clean water for its opponent, head coach Fielding Yost ordered a manager, Tommy Roberts, to purchase a receptacle for drinking water that would be free from suspicion. Roberts thus purchased a five-gallon jug from a variety store in Minneapolis.
With two minutes remaining in the game, Minnesota rallied to tie the game 6-6 on a touchdown. When they blasted over the goal line, the fans rushed the field in excitement. The ensuing pandemonium led to the game being called with time still remaining on the clock.
In their haste to leave and catch the train back to Chicago, Michigan left the jug behind. Minnesota equipment manager Oscar Munson found it the following morning and brought it to Director of Athletics L.J. Cooke. In remembrance of the game, they decided to give it a paint job, scribing, "Michigan Jug - Captured by Oscar, October 31, 1903," on one side. On the opposite face they spelled out the score, "Minnesota 6, Michigan 6," making the Minnesota "6" three times larger than the Michigan score. For the next several years, Cooke suspended the jug from the ceiling of his office in the Minnesota Armory until Yost and the Wolverines visited Minneapolis again in 1909.
Stories vary on when and why the teams decided to play for the jug. The common version claims that when Yost realized he left the crock behind, he sent a letter requesting the jug be returned to Ann Arbor. Cooke allegedly wrote back, "If you want it, you'll have to come up and win it."
Our own SB Nation did a post on one of the newest and best trophies in the Big Ten: the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy between Minnesota and Nebraska. And you know who created it, or at least motivated it? Not fans, not the conference, not even the schools involved. It was Goldy, Minnesota’s mascot. And the oversized rodent did it on Twitter.
Maybe, in all this rush to get a trophy game, we need to enlist our own Scarlet Knight. Just like Goldy, the Knight has a Twitter account. Just like Goldy, he has fingers that seemingly could not operate a keyboard. Yet, the rivalry happened with Goldy’s initiative. If a rodent in a sweater can do this, so can a highly educated, noble, and chivalrous knight.
While it’s all well and good that Pat Hobbs and Chris Ash are involved in talking to the Twerps about this, it may be a slow process. Maybe they need to involve the real power brokers.
Scarlet Knight? Meet Testudo.