Gophers and Michigan a storied rivalry

The Golden Gophers rivalry with Michigan dates back to 1892, and the coveted traveling trophy -- the Little Brown Jug -- dates to 1903.

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Gopher-Michigan rivalry dates back to 1892, and the trophy they tussle over on the gridiron dates back to 1903.

Sadly, for Minnesota fans, it's a bit lopsided with the Wolverines leading the series 74 to 25, with three ties.

"You know, a rivalry would tend to signify it’s been relatively even, and that’s not the case," Dave Mona, a longtime radio analyst for the Golden Gophers, told KARE.

"When the Gophers won two years ago it was one of the few times Michigan was not ranked in the top 30. And, ironically it was the end of the line for Coach Brady Hoke. He was replaced at the end of the season at Michigan, and one of the things they looked at was how could you lose to Minnesota, in Ann Arbor?"

The Little Brown Jug came about in 1903 because the rough-and-tumble Gopher squads in that era apparently couldn't be trusted to provide a clean water supply to a visiting team.

"In 1903 Michigan came here, and the rivalry was so intense they worried that Minnesota might poison their water, so the coach Fielding Yost sent a player to buy a jug, so he bought this five-gallon ceramic jug for 35 cents," Mona explained.  "And then they guarded it to make sure the water they put in was their water."

The game ended in a 6-6 tie, when a thunderstorm broke out before time had officially lapsed. In their haste to get to the train station, the Michigan team accidentally left their big ceramic water jug behind.

The stadium custodian and sports equipment manager Oscar Munson found it, and a new phase of the rivalry began.

"They say he found that, in his accent, he said 'Hey, Michigan left their "yug" here!' and he wrote on it, 'Found by Oscar Munson.'  He put the six-to-six score on there, and to this day the scores go down the side of the little brown jug."

Whether the jug that's now hoisted high by players after games is the same jug Oscar Munson found in 1903, is still subject to debate. 

Mona said that nationally a lot of sports fans think of the Little Brown Jug as the most prized trophy in Minnesota, but people who live here now are more likely to say Paul Bunyan's Axe -- at stake in the game with Wisconsin -- is probably the most prized.

And for some fans the bronze pig known as "Floyd of Rosedale," which travels back and forth between the Gophers and Iowa Hawkeyes, has more significance than the jug.

But Gopher coaches still consider it a coup to capture the jug.

"When we beat Michigan in 2005, Glen Mason flew back to Minnesota with the Little Brown Jug on the front seat of the airplane with him, and then he went out to a restaurant that night and took the Little Brown Jug with him!" Mona recalled.

"Most people had never seen the Little Brown Jug!" 

And that, of course, is reflection of how much time the jug spends in Ann Arbor versus the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis.

© 2017 KARE-TV


JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To find out more about Facebook commenting please read the
Conversation Guidelines and FAQs

Leave a Comment