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St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • The greatest college football trophy

  • Those not aware might think Floyd of Rosedale refers to the name of some English lord. However, sports fans know it's a trophy the Minnesota and Iowa football teams battle over.
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  • Those not aware might think Floyd of Rosedale refers to the name of some English lord. However, sports fans know it's a trophy the Minnesota and Iowa football teams battle over.
    It's the trophy of a bronze pig. Growing up in Iowa, I was aware of Floyd for more than 50 years. There was always something cool about two Midwest universities fighting for a bronze pig. That's the kind of trophy Midwest schools should play for.
    In the last decade I learned the Floyd trophy, played for a real pig 78 years ago, was initiated to try and avoid a riot.
    A riot might have happened at the 1935 Hawks/Gopher game due to an ugly incident that had racist overtones which had happened a year earlier.
    In 1934 the Gophers were on their way to winning their first of three national championships in a row. That same year the Hawkeyes had a star player who was a rarity in the 1930s - a black running back named Ozzie Simmons. Because of his race, Simmons was a player who was singled out for special treatment by opposing teams.
    Other teams verbally abused him by using the 'N' word and dealt out extra punishment in what some Iowa fans and teammates thought was dirty play.
    The Gophers beat the Hawks in Iowa City in Oct. of '34. Simmons was knocked out of the game three times. As the game ended the Iowa fans loudly booed the Gophers. Many people thought the crowd was angry at the way Minnesota played the game against the black athlete.
    This anger simmered over the winter. Through a scheduling change the Gophers were going to play the Hawkeyes and Simmons in Iowa City for the second year in a row in 1935.
    The Iowa fans were ready to dispense justice. Already, legendary Gopher Coach Bernie Bierman had received numerous threatening letters.
    There were rumors Iowa fans were going to storm the field and rough up the Gophers if they thought Minnesota played dirty against their star running back.
    Iowa Governor Clyde Herring threw gas on the smoldering animosity Hawk fans felt when he wrote before the game, "If officials stand for any rough tactics like Minnesota used last year, I'm sure the crowd won't."
    Bierman threatened to break off athletic relations. Harry Peterson, who was the Attorney General of Minnesota, blasted the Iowa governor when he wrote back, "Your remark that the crowd at the Iowa-Minnesota game will not stand for any rough tactics is calcuated to incite a riot.
    "It is a breach of your duty as governor, and evidences an unsportsmanlike, cowardly and contemptible frame of mind."
    It was Minnesota Governor Floyd (where the piggy's first name comes from) Olson who made the right moves that calmed the situation.
    Page 2 of 2 - Olson telegraphed Herring, "Dear Clyde, Minnesota folks are excited over your statement about the Iowa crowd lynching the Minnesota football team. If you seriously think Iowa has any chance to win, I will bet you a Minnesota prize hog against an Iowa prize hog that Minnesota wins today."
    That broke the tension. The Iowa governor accepted though he groused Minnesota only had scrawny hogs.
    The game was played without incident. The Gophers won, and the prize Iowa hog from Rosedale Farm went back to Minnesota.
    A SE Minnesota farmer bought the prized Hampshire pig. Unfortunately, for the farmer the hog died eight months after being won by the Gophers.
    The first Floyd is buried six miles from the Iowa border and about midway between the two universities.
    Minnesota has great football traditions. The game against Wisconsin is the longest, continuous football series in college football history. The Little Brown Jug is another great trophy.
    But, partly because of its history, Floyd of Rosedale is unique in college football lore. And a bronze pig is frickin cool.
    The players battling for the trophy may not know its history, but now you do. It's a part of history that needs to be remembered.
    By the way Gopher fans, my 'unbiased' view is this Saturday it's Hawkeyes 37, Gophers 31. Floyd stay in Iowa City. He likes it there!
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