Rivalry Trophies in College Track
Jesse Squire | On 20, Apr 2017
The winner of the Bowling Green versus Toledo dual meet will now have a stone to take home.
About two weeks ago I had the honor of acting as announcer for the annual Bowling Green – Toledo dual meet. Now that the meet is over, I can drop the impartiality act and tell you how this BG alum really feels. Final score: Toledo 100, Bowling Green 99. I walked out of the stadium kinda like this, but angrier and more bitter:
I also got a chance to inaugurate a traveling trophy for the meet. That’s a true rarity in college track.
One of the really fun things about college football is the existence of traveling trophies. Things like the Little Brown Jug, the Jeweled Shillelagh, the Keg of Nails. These physical representations of the intense rivalries that drive much of college football’s appeal are ubiquitous, and they’re fun things for the winning team to carry off the field in celebration.
Some trophies are better than others. BG and Toledo used to play for the Peace Pipe, a trinket brought out in 1948 because it was the first time the two teams had played since a riot broke out after the 1935 game. It was eventually phased out, partly because the NCAA discouraged Native American imagery, but mostly because it was stolen and never found. In 2011 the “Battle of I-75” trophy was inaugurated and it looks about as exciting as a calculus lecture. Yuck.
The best trophies are organic, and by that I mean they are designed by passion or happenstance rather than a committee. For example, the Old Oaken Bucket that Indiana and Purdue pass back and forth really is an old oaken bucket, taken from a farm out in the middle of nowhere in Indiana in 1925. The Iron Skillet (TCU vs SMU) supposedly came from a pre-game prank in the 1940s.
But without a doubt, the absolute most fun, most organic, most created-off-the-cuff trophy in college sports is the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy. Created by some Minnesota fans for their new rivalry with Nebraska after a silly Twitter exchange between Goldy Gopher and Faux Pelini,, it personifies the joy of being young and in college. SB Nation has the story on its creation.
I thought very deeply about all of this while trying to figure out what to use for a rivalry trophy. I didn’t want to commission a trophy to be created in some shop because a) it lacks authenticity, but more importantly b) it costs money, which I was not really interested in spending.
I settled on a rock plucked from the bottom of the Maumee River. The river, the largest single tributary to the Great Lakes system, forms the boundary between Wood County (Bowling Green) and Lucas County (Toledo). The river is not just a boundary, it’s also a resource used heavily by the entire community. It both divides and joins the two counties, so it’s a symbol of the things that both divide and join the two teams. That’s what rivalries are about. Teams become rivals not because they are different but because they are alike. The stone weights a bit over 50 pounds and will have the team names engraved on opposite sides, so that the winner can display theirs while smashing the other’s into the dirt.
Existing Rivalry Trophies
There are very few traveling trophies in college track and field, and as in football they range from the ordinary to the sublime. Time to hand out grades!
Passing Grade: At least they have one
Ohio State v Michigan
Ohio State and Michigan had a dual meet rivalry going for a few years, and they ran for this flimsy cloth pennant. It looks like something you could have picked up for $6.99 at Party City. Lame! They need to go to office hours and tutoring.
Kansas v Kansas State v Wichita State
Minnesota v Wisconsin
(Photo courtesy Becky Miller)
Wisconsin and Minnesota have renewed their dual meet rivalry which had laid dormant for decades. The football teams have some of the greatest trophies ever–they used to play for the Slab of Bacon and now play for a dangerous weapon. The track teams play for a trophy. That’s OK, I guess. At least it’s kind of snazzy.
Illinois State v Indiana State
Indiana State and Illinois State run for the Coughlan-Malloy Cup, which is a real cup and is named after retired coaches from the two institutions. This year’s meet came just weeks after the sudden death of Indiana State coach John McNichols, and the Sycamores retained the cup in an emotional win. A cup is more visually impressive than a trophy, so they get some credit for that.
Honor Roll for Creativity
The Little Three
The cross country teams at Franklin & Marshall, Dickinson, and Gettysburg (aka “the Little Three”) run for the Napoleon Cannon Trophy, which is a miniature cannon atop a trophy. Weirder is better when it comes to rivalry trophies, and we’re moving that direction.
Case Western v Carnegie Mellon
Division III is often where the weirdest things happen in college sports and that’s true when it comes to track and field rivalry trophies. Case Western Reserve and Carnegie-Mellon compete for an obelisk. Why an obelisk? Nobody remembers. The best trophies are the ones that don’t make any sense at all, like this one.
Carleton v St. Olaf
Better yet are the trophies passed back and forth between MIAC crosstown rivals Carleton and St. Olaf. Their cross country reserve teams meet at the end of the year for the Karhu Shoe trophy, but this track trophy is sheer genius. In a spoof of Rolex’s sponsorship of the small-college tennis championship, several years ago a former coach picked up a counterfeit Rolex from the streets of New York and made a trophy out of it. Since spring is short in Minnesota, the meet is held the week prior to the MIAC Championships. For that reason the coaches wanted to keep the rivalry but stress individual competition instead of heavy team responsibilities. At the end of the meet, one event is drawn at random. Whichever team won the event wins the meet and the “Rolex” trophy.
Magna Cum Laude
Coastal Carolina v UNC-Wilmington
There is no doubt in my mind as to which is the best dual meet trophy out there. UNC-Wilmington and Coastal Carolina go head-to-head every year in a meet they call the “Battle of the Beaches”. The winner takes home this mini-surfboard trophy. Now this is the real deal. If I was 20 years old again, I’d run until I bled so my team and I could carry this off the track.
Proposed dual meet trophies
There are established rivalries out there which lack a trophy. For example, the Cactus Cup rivalry between Angelo State, Tarleton State, and Texas A&M-Kingsville does not award a cup to the winner. Neither does the Carolina Cup between Duke, North Carolina, NC State, and East Carolina. Here are some suggestions.
Arizona vs Arizona State
For decades this was a three-way rivalry that included Northern Arizona, but they withdrew a few years ago leaving this meet to the state’s two major programs. I have seen a reference to the first dual meet being held in 1908 (four years before Arizona was admitted as a state) but detailed records are difficult or impossible to find. Since this is a clash between teams from the north and the south, perhaps the traveling trophy should include something from the O.K. Corral.
South Dakota vs South Dakota State
Despite being an obvious in-state rivalry, as a dual meet this has a spotty history. Most of South Dakota’s famous landmarks – Mount Rushmore, Deadwood, Sturgis – are in the western portion of the state, hundreds of miles from the two campuses. Much closer is Mitchell, location of the world-famous Corn Palace. A scaled-down version of Cornelius, the palace’s grinning mascot, would be a great traveling trophy.
Washington State vs Washington
This meet is coming up on Sunday. The football version of the rivalry is known as the Apple Cup and has a suitable but uninteresting trophy. The track meet needs something track- and Washington-centric. At first I thought we should make Paul Merca the traveling trophy, since he is the master of all things track and field in the Evergreen State, but that wouldn’t work unless we could get a magician to saw him in half in the years when the men’s and women’s teams split the wins. Instead, I suggest a Washington Apple cocktail.
Detroit Mercy vs Oakland
This is a friendly rivalry, but the areas they represent have their tensions. UDM is obviously inside the city of Detroit, while Oakland University is in the northern suburb of Rochester Hills. 8 Mile Road is the dividing line between the city and the northern suburbs and the differences between the two areas can be stark, even just across the road from each other. People all over the country were made aware of this in the 2002 film 8 Mile. Thus my suggestion for a traveling trophy is an Eminem bobblehead.
Michigan vs Duke vs North Carolina
This is a relatively new triangular and is known as the “Battle of the Blues”. Couldn’t the winning team just take possession of one of the guys from the Blue Man Group? I mean, they’re well past their peak and should come pretty cheap these days.
Harvard vs Yale
The Crimson and the Elis first met in 1890, making this the oldest dual meet rivalry in American collegiate track and field (Oxford and Cambridge’s “Varsity Match” began 26 years earlier). Given the two universities’ overrepresentation in institutions such as Goldman Sachs, the trophy should be obvious: a golden parachute.
Cal vs Stanford
“The Big Meet” is the second-oldest US dual meet rivalry, behind only Harvard-Yale. Stanford is now a nationally-competitive program, and in fact the Cardinal has scored more points at the NCAA Championships since 2010 than any other program in the state of California – but it wasn’t always that way. Stanford was a Pac-10 bottom feeder through the 70s and 80s, but one of then-AD Ted Leland’s first hires was a distance specialist out of Dartmouth named Vin Lananna who changed all of that. When Stanford broke Cal’s 25-year win streak in the 1997 edition of The Big Meet, Lananna made good on a promise and allowed the team to shave off his trademark beard right there on the track. The perfect traveling trophy for this meet would be a bag of Vin Lananna’s beard hair.