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College football rivalries can be intense and there’s often more than bragging rights at stake. Usually, the winners receive a coveted, yet weird old trophy. From bones to phones and clogs to kegs, these trophies enrich the traditions of college football rivalries and are highly prized by players, coaches and supporters. At NCSA, we picked 10 of our favorite trophies and uncovered the stories behind them.
The Troll: Concordia College-St. Olaf
The ugliest rivalry trophy in America goes to the winner of the annual Concordia College vs. St. Olaf game. Fashioned from Norwegian moss and pinecone, the Troll trophy is the stuff of nightmares. The furry creature from Norse mythology was adopted in 1974 to reflect the Norwegian heritage of both Minnesota schools. The Concordia Cobbers and the St. Olaf Oles first played each other in 1921.
Rivalry standings: Concordia-Moorhead leads 42-25
The Keg of Nails: Cincinnati-Louisville
While most kegs are filled with beer or gunpowder, the Keg of Nails was created by Cincinnati and Louisville fraternity brothers to symbolize the “tough as nails” mentality of the winning team. A replica of a keg used to ship nails, the trophy does not actually contain nails—or finger nails. Introduced in 1929, the Keg of Nails game has been on hiatus since Louisville moved to the ACC in 2014.
Rivalry standings: Cincinnati leads 30-22
Illibuck Trophy: Illinois-Ohio State
If turtles make you tick, you’d be tickled to win the Illinois vs. Ohio State rivalry game back in 1925. That’s because the original Illibuck trophy—a portmanteau of “Illini” and “Buckeyes”—was a live turtle. Tragically, the original Illibuck passed away in 1927 after escaping from an Illinois fraternity bathtub. To spare other turtles from the horrors of Illinois frats, Illibuck was immortalized as a beautifully detailed wooden replica with scores of previous games etched on its shell. The second-oldest football trophy in the Big Ten, Ohio State has taken home the turtle every year since 2007.
Rivalry standings: Ohio State leads 68-30
Dutchman’s Shoes: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute-Union College
Fans of these D3 schools in Upstate New York can attest—winning the ruby red Dutchman’s Shoes makes you feel like flying somewhere over a rainbow. The Dutchman’s Shoes trophy gives a nod to the heritage of the Union Dutchmen and the Rensselaer Engineers. It consists of two wooden clogs mounted on a pedestal—the right clog is labeled with an “R” for Rensselaer, the left clog with a “U” for Union. The oldest football rivalry in the State of New York, these schools have been playing each other since 1886.
Rivalry standings: Union leads 80-31
Platypus Trophy: Oregon-Oregon State
What do you get when you cross the Oregon Ducks with the Oregon State Beavers? A shiny, wooden platypus. Blessed with a duck’s bill and a beaver’s tail, the Platypus trophy could not be more fitting for the Oregon-Oregon State Civil War game, which dates back to 1894.
Rivalry standings: Oregon leads 65-47
Battle of the Bones: Memphis-UAB
The trophy for the Memphis vs. Alabama-Birmingham football game is a juicy 100-pound rack of ribs. However, these ribs aren’t coated in barbecue sauce—they’re cast in gleaming bronze. The Battle of the Bones trophy was introduced in 2006 to celebrate Memphis and Birmingham’s reputation for top-notch ‘cue. That year, the UAB Blazers not only smoked the Memphis Tigers on the field—UAB students also claimed first place in the inaugural barbecue competition. However, Memphis may have had the last laugh. Since the Tigers won the final Battle of the Bones before moving to the Big East in 2012, they get to keep this slab of ribs indefinitely.
Rivalry standings: UAB leads 10-5
Old Brass Spittoon: Michigan State-Indiana
This college football rivalry trophy commemorates the history of expectorating. The Old Brass Spittoon, which was adopted as the Michigan State vs. Indiana trophy in 1950, is literally a pot for people to spit in. The trophy was originally used in a trading post near East Lansing in the 1800s. Residents and travelers would stop by the trading post to stock up on goods and spew tobacco into the spittoon. Today, the spittoon still mostly stays in East Lansing—Indiana has only won the rivalry game three times since 1995.
Rivalry standings: Michigan State leads 47-16
Telephone Trophy: Missouri-Iowa State
Don’t phone it in if you want to win the Missouri vs. Iowa State rivalry game. The Telephone Trophy consists of an old school rotary phone fixed to a wooden base. Half of the receiver is dipped in Mizzou gold; the other half is painted cardinal red for Iowa State. The phone immortalizes a communication mix-up that happened before the 1959 Missouri-Iowa State game. The telephone wires connecting the coaches’ boxes to the field became crossed, which allowed both coaches to eavesdrop on each other’s pre-game plans. This rivalry is off the hook for now—Missouri moved from the Big 12 to the SEC in 2011.
Rivalry standings: Missouri leads 61-34
Baird Brothers Trophy: College of Wooster-Case Western Reserve
There’s something fishy about the Baird Brothers trophy. Comprised of a golden fishing stringer and carved brass fish that represent each game, the trophy was concocted in 1984 by two brothers who taught economics–Wooster Professor Bill Baird and Case Professor Bob Baird. The size and species of the fish on the line tell the tale of past matchups. Ferocious predators like muskies and northern pike represent blowouts, while smaller swimmers like bluegill and walleye denote tight affairs. Sadly, the D3 Northern Ohio schools played their final rivalry game in 2012, as Case joined the Presidents’ Athletic Conference.
Rivalry standings: Wooster leads 13-12
$5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy: Minnesota-Nebraska
When Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, it opened the door to new rivalries and ridiculous rivalry trophies. The unofficial $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy is the first and only Big Ten rivalry trophy to originate entirely on the internet. It can trace its roots back to a 2014 Twitter exchange between Goldy the Gopher and Faux Pelini, a parody account of former Nebraska coach Bo Pelini. The name says it all—the trophy consists of a damaged chair on its side with two $5 bills glued to the bottom.
Rivalry standings: Minnesota leads 32-25