Long before cable TV, like back in the last century when it seemed that only the biggest of the big college football games were shown nationally, there were a few that stood out.
While places under the network radar had their rivalries — like Egg Bowls and playing for Buckets and a Platypus Trophy and Harvard against Yale — there was Notre Dame versus USC. Shake Down the Thunder against the Men of Troy, Heisman Trophy winners galore, the Catholic football nation against Hollywood, and some of the great stars of the game.
But more on the glitz and glamour later. First, we explore the fun side of some of the best and more interesting matchups from college sports as NCAA.com takes a wide-ranging look at rivalries across the board from Oct. 17 to Oct. 21.
|NCAA.com Rivalry Week Schedule|
Tuesday: Greatest Rivalries
Photo essay of nine top rivalries
Wednesday: College Football Preview Show
Special look at all-time matchups
Thursday: We’re Talking Rivalries
NCAA.com writers’ thoughts on the top games
Friday: In Their Words
What the fans, programs think of their rivalries
Yes, they have them in cross country – it gets serious between Adams State and Western State – and field hockey – Maryland and North Carolina get after it just as much as their men’s and women’s basketball counterparts – and don’t tell Messiah and Wheaton (Ill.) their men’s soccer game isn’t right up there. Speaking of which, the Blue-Green matchup between Cal Poly SLO and UC Santa Barbara – pretty big in all sports – have included five of the top 15 men’s crowds since the meetings began and its followers call it the biggest rivalry in college soccer.
But football wins for names.
How about that Egg Bowl? That’s when Ole Miss plays Mississippi State, certainly the glamour opposite of USC-ND. But the Southeastern Conference, for that matter, is loaded with them: Alabama and Auburn square off every year in the regular-season-ending Iron Bowl, a game that has changed locations (no longer at Legion Field in neutral Birmingham, Ala., but on the respective campuses) but not ferocity, considering that it has produced the national champion the past two years.
No one’s glass goes empty when Florida and Georgia square off each year in a game dubbed ‘The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.’ Yes, they consume some adult beverages before and during SEC games.
Like many rivalry games, they are founded on in-state or border-state competition. Is there one more anticipated in the southwest than the game between Oklahoma and Texas? Oklahoma won the 106th meeting now called the Red River Rivalry on Oct. 8.
LSU and Arkansas sort of created a rivalry game after Arkansas joined the league in 1992, since those two flagship schools from bordering states now finish the SEC regular season the day after Thanksgiving. While their game has no name, they play for ‘The Boot,’ a rather hideous shiny gold and extremely heavy trophy that is the outline of Arkansas and Louisiana. LSU used to play Tulane, once a member of the SEC, for the Tiger Rag.
There’s a strong bond and rivalry between sister cities Natchitoches, La., home of Northwestern State, and Nagodoches, Texas, home of Stephen F. Austin. Those two FCS football teams play annually for monstrous Chief Caddo, a solid wood statue standing more than 7 feet tall and weighing in at 330 pounds.
Speaking of Louisiana, perhaps the biggest rivalry in all of the FCS is between two Pelican State schools: Southern and Grambling, two historically black colleges that end their seasons each year in New Orleans in the Bayou Classic, truly a remarkable three-day event punctuated with concerts, parties and a battle of the bands and finally, a football game in the Superdome on national TV.
They have the Bayou Classic, but Houston and Rice battle for the Bayou Bucket.
Once you get away from the bayou, there are buckets everywhere.
Like the Dickinson-Gettysburg game for the Little Brown Bucket. Or Hamline and Macalester’s fight for the Old Paint Bucket, a rivalry started in 1887. Macalester won that game 17-0 this past Oct. 1 in a game described on the Macalester College website as “Brains, Brawn, and Bagpipes: Come support the Fighting Scots as they take on Snelling Avenue foe Hamline University. Winner takes home the Old Paint Bucket.”
Four years after that first Macalester-Hamline tilt, in 1891, a couple of Iowa colleges, Cornell and Coe, started a series that is called simply, ‘The Oldest College Rivalry West of the Mississippi.’ They got started a year after DePauw and Wabash began what is called the Monon Bell Classic. OK, since you were going to ask (from the DePauw website): “The Monon Bell trophy, a 300-pound locomotive bell from the Monon Railroad, was introduced in 1932 at the suggestion of a DePauw alumnus, Orien Fifer ’25, in a letter to the editor of The Indianapolis News. The Bell is awarded to the victorious team at the end of the game, to be held until contested again the following year. Since DePauw and Wabash are only 27 miles apart, the adversaries in the game are often brothers, cousins, high school classmates or good friends, adding to the competition’s intensity.”
Which is pretty much what rivalries are about.
In most cases, rivals have a deep respect for the competition between them and, while the on-field games are fierce, the appreciation for their opponents afterward lasts forever.
And you can trust that the players don’t make up the names of these football games or their prizes. Take these Division III games for example: The Battle for the Border Claw between East Texas Baptist and Louisiana College; the Bronze Turkey Game for the between Illinois schools Knox and Monmouth; the Cereal Bowl between Carleton and St. Olaf with not one but two trophies at stake, the Goat Trophy and the Cereal Bowl Trophy; New York’s RPI and Union vie for the Dutchman’s Shoes; in Minnesota, St. John’s and St. Thomas go for the Holy Grail; Hamilton and Middlebury play for the Mac-Jack Rocking Chair; and SUNY Maritime and the Merchant Marine Academy play the Seafaring Scuffle.
North Carolina schools Appalachian State and Western Carolina play for the Old Mountain Jug. Ithaca and SUNY Cortland, nearby upstate New York rivals, play for the Cortaca Jug. And is there a more famous jug than the Little Brown Jug, fought for annually by Michigan and Minnesota? It’s not a jug, but the Coal Miners Pail Trophy is the prize between California (Pa.) and Indiana (Pa.). And speaking of that, there’s the Miner’s Helment and Axe at stake between Missouri Southern and Pittsburg State.
There are others that beg a mention just for the smile, like the Anchor-Bone Classic between Grand Valley State and Ferris State. Or the brawls, the Backyard Brawl between close-by Mississippi schools Millsaps and Mississippi College, the better-known Backyard Brawl between Pittsburgh and West Virginia and The Brawl of the Wild game that pits the Grizzlies of Montana and the Bobcats of Montana State.
For whom does the bell toll? In college football, quite a few.
In Division I, there are three “Battles for the Bell,” between Cincinnati and Miami (Ohio), a rivalry started in 1888; Marshall versus Ohio; and Southern Miss and Tulane. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State play for the Bedlam Bell, although it crosses all sports. Minnesota and Penn State vie for the Governor’s Victory Bell. Conference realignment killed the Missouri-Nebraska battle for their Victory Bell. But the bells ring on, because even UCLA and USC play for the Victory Bell, as do Duke and North Carolina, Cal Poly and Fresno State and Franklin College and Hanover College. North Cenral (Ill.) and Wheaton (Ill.) play for the Little Brass Bell.
Plenty of big schools play for obscure and/or unusual things, like Nevada and UNLV trying to win the Fremont Cannon; UAB and Memphis going for The Bones, a trophy of barbecue ribs; Michigan and Michigan State going for the Paul Bunyan Trophy; New Mexico and UTEP playing for the Silver Spade; Maryland Navy going for the Crab Bowl Trophy; Arizona and Arizona State vying for the Territorial Cup and Iowa State and Kansas State playing a game dubbed Farmageddon.
Cincinnati battles Louisville for the Keg of Nails. Indiana and Michigan State play for the Old Brass Spittoon. And Indiana has at stake the Old Oaken Bucket with in-state rival Purdue. Paul Bunyan is not limited to Michigan-Michigan State, because Minnesota and Wisconsin play for his axe and a Slab of Bacon in a series first competed in 1890. And, by the way, Oregon and Oregon State fight for the Platypus Trophy, despite their game being called the Civil War. Platypus? It might be found in Australia, but it’s a combination of duck (Oregon) and a beaver (Oregon State).
Anyway, back to Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish seem to get circled on everyone’s calendar. They play Boston College in a game between Catholic schools called by some the Holy War (although BYU and Utah have one, too) and the Vatican Bowl. Notre Dame plays Stanford for the Legends Trophy. It plays Michigan State for the Megaphone Trophy. Purdue tries to beat Notre Dame for the Shillelagh Trophy.
But Notre Dame plays USC for the Jeweled Shillelagh. It has its own Facebook page. It’s worth repeating that, “For each victory, a respective jeweled ornament is added to the foot-long club. For each USC victory, a ruby-adorned Trojan head is added, marked with the year and game score; for each Notre Dame victory, a similarly detailed emerald-studded shamrock is added.”
Most football fans likely wouldn’t have known about the prize but through the 1960s and 1970s, you cold argue that USC-Notre Dame was THE regular-season national-TV showcase game for college football. Think Heisman winners like Notre Dame’s John Huarte (1964), USC’s Mike Garrett (1965) and O.J. Simpson (1968) in the 1960s, to names in the ‘70s like Anthony Davis, Pat Hayden, Lynn Swann and Charles White.
Just think of the coaches involved in this series, from Knute Rockne to Frank Leahy to John Robinson to Ara Parseghian to John McKay to Lou Holtz to Pete Carroll, a rivalry that has featured 11 eventual national champions and seven Heisman winners on each side. And even though the rivalry has remained intense, the emergence of cable networks that televise seemingly every game played has taken some of the spotlight off the USC-Notre Dame annual affair.
Not that it doesn’t remain important, especially not to anyone who watched in 2005 as USC’s Reggie Bush pushed quarterback Matt Leinhart across the goal line on the last play of the game for a 34-31 victory. The Trojans went on to win the national championship.
No doubt around the country people raised bells, buckets and maybe even a platypus in their honor.
And just so you know that this isn’t all about football, there’s one more thing about the platypus. It seems that after the 1961 Oregon-Oregon State game, the trophy was stolen and more or less forgotten about.
At least in football.
Turned out that Oregon found it and claimed it for victories over Oregon State from 1964-68 in water polo and displayed it in a trophy case at the old Oregon pool. But then it was dormant again, finally rediscovered, and eventually, in 2007 the Platypus was finally back in play for football. And, yes, the Platypus Trophy also has its own Facebook page.
|Sport||Rivalry||First Meeting||Last Meeting||Series|
|DI Field Hockey||Maryland vs. North Carolina||1982||2010: UNC 3-2 (2OT)||UNC 32-23|
|DII Field Hockey||Bloomsburg vs. Lock Haven||1960||2003: LHU 1-0||LHU 24-22-2|
|DIII Field Hockey||Bowdoin vs. Colby||1972||2011: Bowdoin 3-0||BC 28-11-2|
|FBS Football||Notre Dame vs. Southern California||1926||2010: ND 20-16||USC 43-34-5|
|FCS Football||Harvard vs. Yale||1875||2010: Harvard 28-21||Yale 65-54-8|
|DII Football||Northwest Missouri State vs. Pittsburg State||1932||2011: PSU 38-35||Tied 22-22|
|DIII Football||Mount Union vs. Wisconsin-Whitewater||2002||2009: UWW 38-28||MU 5-2|
|DI Men’s Soccer||Cal Poly vs. UC Santa Barbara||1967||2011: Cal Poly 2-1||UCSB 42-15-5|
|DII Men’s Soccer||Lynn vs. Barry||1986||2010: BU 5-0||LU 18-8-1|
|DIII Men’s Soccer||Messiah vs. Wheaton (Ill.)||1982||2008: Messiah 4-0||Messiah 5-3-2|
|NC Men’s Water Polo||USC vs. UCLA||1962||2011: UCLA, 7-6||UCLA 72-70-1|
|DI Women’s Soccer||Portland vs. Santa Clara||1984||2010: Portland 1-0||Tied 14-14-2|
|DII Women’s Soccer||Seattle Pacific vs. Western Washington||2001||2011: SPU 3-0||SPU 14-4-3|
|DIII Women’s Soccer||Amherst vs. Williams||1979||2011: Amherst 3-0||Tied 15-15-8|
|DI Women’s Volleyball||California vs. Stanford||1976||2011: Cal 3-1||Stanford 62-11|
|DII Women’s Volleyball||Ferris State vs. Grand Valley State||1969||2011: FSU 3-0||GVSU 64-41|
|DIII Women’s Volleyball||Calvin vs. Hope||1978||2011: Calvin 3-0||Calvin 48-26|
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