Enjoy this week's installment of my series on the trophies found in college football. If you need an explanation of the series you can read the introduction.
This week none of the games played in the NCAA's Footbal Bowl Subdivision involve a trophy. The only rivalry game of note, New Mexico Lobos vs. New Mexico St. Aggies, retired their trophy in 2000. Apparently the Lobos just decided the Maloof Trophy wasn't even exciting enough to merit opening their trophy case. So I will skip over any of those games and focus on something much more interesting.
The edition will take an extended journey into the many trophies that receive little attention in the popular press. Plenty of football games take place every week that won't make ESPN's highlight reel, and lots of those have stories and spoils just as fun as anything in the prestige conferences. I have prepared a special expanded version of my regular feature "For Those Who Do Not Bowl". So please take this opportunity to learn about some of the most colorful and fascinating piece of hardware exchanged on a gridiron. You should note the dates of these games coming up on your calendar, because if you have any chance to check out these games in person, I think you will find them worthwhile.
The Blue Ribbon Trophy of the Week
|Above: A photo of the beleaguered looking Goat Trophy by Tom Dahlin from Carleton.edu|
"GOATROPHY" - Carleton College Knights vs. Saint Olaf Oles- 10/20/2012
You may think that the glamor programs in college football have a monopoly on colorful traditions and entertaining history. If those small schools had anything interesting going on, you surely think you would here about it. Well allow me to demonstrate the falsehood in that axiom with the rivalry between Division III colleges, St. Olaf and Carleton, which has as rich a lore as any trophy game I've covered in this series.
You certainly can name plenty of instate rivalries in college football. Perhaps you can even think of some crosstown foes. Well, Carleton and St. Olaf don't just share the city of Northfield, MN, they are the only annual opponents to come from the same ZIP code. On top of that their rivalry has an amusing moniker, "The Cereal Bowl". Northfield contains a major plant for producing Malt-O-Meal cereals which fills ten percent of the cereal bowls in the U.S. For years the Malt-O-Meal brand has provided sponsorship support for the game, including samples of the sugary processed breakfast foods athletes need. The actual trophy dates back to 1931 when a local clothing store funded the creation of a goat themed prize to award to the game winner. That's what counted as major business support for a Division III school in the great depression. Now there's also a trophy called the Cereal Bowl that's awarded to the winner, but I don't find it interesting so I shan't mention it again. The schools already had a goat based trophy in basketball and the winner would say, "We got your goat" to the loser. Even if none of that tickled your fancy, I still haven't told you the best stuff.
The Goat Trophy has done something no other trophy in NCAA football history has done, honored the victor of a game played on a 100 meter field. Back in 1977 the two schools in a fit of liberal arts enthusiasm backed a movement to convert the United States to the metric system. So they decided to use a field that measured 100 meters by 50 meters, and dub the game the "Liter Bowl" (for all you non-Canadians that's pronounced "leeter"). Surprisingly enough the fans got behind this idea -they had metric themed sign, t-shirts, and everything- and it drew national media attention. With a field that was 110% the size of a normal gridiron, the Oles and Knights had the opportunity to record some inflated stats, or at least be the American football players most prepared for the Canadian Football League. However the NCAA didn't get behind the idea. As one official said, "none of us on the rules committee understands the metric system." So the only metric game in college football history resulted in St. Olaf winning 43-0 (or in metric, they won by 7.3 kilogoals over -17.8 points Celsius).
The greatest honor related to winning the Goat Trophy comes just after the game, but before the boozing. The victorious team walks to the center of Northfield where the Civil War Monument stands (Yes, both schools' football stadiums are with walking distance of this park. I tried to tell you this is a very intimate rivalry between almost literal neighbors.) Hoisting the wooden caprine as proof of their triumph, the players turn the eagle statue at the top of the monument to face the campus of the winning team. We don't know the origins of this tradition, but it carries great meaning to anyone involved -that's actually pretty normal for traditions. Then the fans and players, still in their pads and jerseys, head to the bars. I did mention there was boozing.
The next time someone from a school with a famous football team tries to tell you about how special the tradition of football is for their fellow fans, try to remember how much tradition Carleton and St. Olaf squeezed into their trophy game. All you need for a great football tradition is people who care.
Spoils of the Game-Obscure School Edition
This time we'll take a look at some of the prizes at stake in games played outside the FBS.
|Above: The Massachusetts Maritime team celebrates winning The Scoop, pic from MMABucs.com.|
The Scoop- Bridgewater State Bears vs. Massachusetts Maritime Buccaneers- 11/3/2012
Whenever a trophy captures a unique aspect of regional pride, my heart just melt. For the annual match-up between two teams from Massachusetts, someone "wicked smaht" decided to hand out a prize that represents New England provincialism so well it should come with maple syrup. The Bears and the Bucs had played a few times early in the history, but in 1979 they began meeting every year in an event dubbed the Cranberry Bowl. (You receive no bonus points for correctly guessing who sponsors that event.) Since cranberries hold the enviable post as Massachusetts official State Berry, it makes all the sense in the world that the game and trophy should both have a cranberry theme. Cranberries come from bogs, and for a long time they were a pain in the tuchus to harvest. To this end cranberries farmers have used variations on a scoop to collect the berries since as far back as the 1850's. Mechanical harvesters replaced hand scoops back in 1947, but they still make great decorative items. That may explain why a cranberry scoop makes such a great trophy ; it's local and it looks good.
|Above: In a photo from CalVulcans.com, representative of California and Indiana hold the Coal Miner's Pail and wonder why they're in Pennsylvania.|
Coal Miner's Pail- California (PA) Vulcans vs. Indiana (PA) Crimson Hawks- 9/22/2012
Usually, I have to write about the less famous trophies well before the actual games, to spread the coverage out across the season. When I saw I had a chance to post about a game actually happening this weekend, I knew I had to do my best to be topical. (Though if I wind up posting this late, then I will sure be embarrassed.) The most interesting thing about this game is that it seems to turn all U.S. geography on its head. An innocent observer may find it puzzling that California and Indiana would have an annual rivalry to begin with, and she would be totally flabbergasted to learn that it was played in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The two schools warrant their names, because one is in the city/county of Indiana, PA, and the other is in the borough of California, PA -though why those locations have those names is a harder question to answer.
The annual game's status as the Coal Bowl, and Coal Miner's Pail trophy originated with a pair of brothers with ties to the two schools. Barry and Bob Lippencott graduated from IUP and CUP respectively and endowed each school with money for a football scholarship. Along with the cash came the gift of a shiny coal miner's pail and certain expectations (that's sort of how my dates describe a night out with me). The pail would serves as a prize for the winner of the year grudge match between the Vulcans and the Crimson Hawks to pay tribute to the Lippencott's many coal mining ancestors. Barry and Bob thought coal miners represented the sort of tough, hard working, and fearless attitude that all college graduates should have, or maybe just the football players. They weren't very clear. Still for the last four years the schools have traded the trophy as part of a budding Division II football tradition.
(As a disappointing postscript for any Star Trek fans out there, I should add that CUP's nickname refers to Vulcan like the god, not Vulcan like the alien.)
Please return to this space each week during this college football season for more information and lore about college football's many trophies.