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Big Ten Rivalries

Established in 1896, The Big Ten Conference is the oldest Division I college athletics conference in The United States. Despite the Conference name, there are actually 12 colleges and universities in The Big Ten. Of those 12 schools, nine are located in Great Lakes States. Over the years, some rather intense rivalries have developed in with The Big Ten, especially in football. Many of these rivalries include a specially named trophy. The winner of the game gets to keep the trophy—and bragging rights—until the next annual meeting.

The rivalry between University of Illinois and The Ohio State University began in 1902. It wasn’t until 1924, however, that a trophy was exchanged between the two schools. The Illibuck was originally a live turtle. Because the rivalry was expected to be very long lasting and turtle tend to have long lives, exchanging a live animal seemed to be a good idea. However, the turtle did not survive as long as the rivalry. When the original turtle died in 1927, a wooden replica was carved. The rivalry currently stands at 64 wins for Ohio State, 30 wins for Illinois, and 4 ties.

In 1905, a group of Purdue University students brought a miniature cannon to a football game in Champaign, Illinois. The plan was to fire the cannon after the Boilermakers beat the Illini. However, the cannon was confiscated by some Illinois supporters before the celebration could begin. One of them, Quincy A. Hall, kept the cannon for nearly 40 years. In 1943, after a 12-year gap, the rivalry between the two schools resumed, and Hall suggested using the Purdue Cannon as the trophy. It has been presented to the winner of the game annually since then. To date, Illinois has had the cannon 42 times and Purdue has possessed it 39 times. The two schools have tied six times since 1943.

The rivalry between Michigan State University and Indiana University began in 1950. That was also the year that they began exchanging the Old Brass Spittoon. No one can prove it, but it is believed that this spittoon has been around since the schools were founded. Because they were founded in different years (MSU in 1857 and IU in 1820), the age of the spittoon could be vastly different. Michigan State University leads the rivalry with 41 wins to Indiana University’s 15 wins. The schools have tied twice.

The oldest American college football trophy is passed between two Great Lakes area teams. The tradition of passing The Little Brown Jug started in 1903, when the University of Minnesota hosted the University of Michigan. At the time, Michigan had won 28 straight games and the coach, Feilding H. Yost, was nervous that Minnesota fans would contaminate his water. He sent out a student assistant to purchase something to hold water in; the assistant came back with a 5 gallon jug. The two teams tied that day, and Yost left his jug behind. When he asked for it back, he was told, “if you want it back, you have to win it back.” The University of Michigan accepted the challenge, and the rivalry began. The University of Michigan leads the series with 71 wins to the University of Minnesota’s 24 wins. Including that first game, the teams have tied 3 times.

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Content copyright © 2013 by Lynn McMonigal. All rights reserved.
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