Because of the federal law that says all decent Big Ten games have to include a rivalry trophy, Michigan State and Penn State continue to play for a pile of random garbage called the Land Grant Trophy.
There’s no reason for these schools to have a rivalry that is A Thing in any way.
If you’d prefer the vaguely internet-created LASERS image, here is that:
The Land Grant Trophy came about in 1993, when the schools started a run of playing season finales against each other every year until 2010.
Here’s Penn State’s explanation of the trophy’s existence:
The Land Grant Trophy honors Penn State’s and Michigan State’s unique places in history as the two pioneer land-grant institutions in the United States.
Each school was founded in 1855, Michigan State on Feb. 12 and Penn State on Feb. 22. The schools were the prototypes after which the land-grant system was patterned.
Each institution brought to American education the new dimensions of service.
Almost the entire Big Ten is land-grant. It’s not a unique thing.
Most giant state schools are land-grant schools, and most of them became that way shortly after Penn State and Michigan State did. They weren’t the inspiration for the creation of a new type of American college. Congress decided it’d be good to give federal lands to the states so they could make big colleges on them. Whatever ideas other states culled from PSU and MSU, it seems likely they’d have figured things out.
I’m just trying and failing to imagine a more boring way to label a trophy for a football game than by getting all proud about a regulatory designation your school happened to receive in the mid-1800s.
There’s also the matter of the trophy looking stupid.
You can build your own with stuff just found around the house.
It's Land-Grant Trophy week and we give you step-by-step instructions to build your very own. https://t.co/z22HBfuq3W— Roar Lions Roar (@RLRblog) October 11, 2018
It has pictures of the schools on it, it contains other objects that would make for less ugly trophies by themselves, and it looks like a shelf.
Land Grant Trophy. pic.twitter.com/TeWIHc6GXQ— Richard Scarcella (@nittanyrich) November 27, 2016
Look how cumbersome and heavy this is. Neither of you needs this. It’s perfect.
The Spartans and Nittany Lions are “rivals” in the most nominal of terms.
In fact, to get from State College to East Lansing, you’ve got to drive a few hours west in Pennsylvania before crossing all of Ohio and then venturing north once you’re actually in Michigan.
By conference-opponent standards, they don’t find themselves in a great many head-to-head recruiting battles. They’ve only played 31 games in their head-to-head history, with two-thirds coming in the years they’ve been in the Big Ten together. The series is 16-15-1 for MSU.
“I like the idea of a trophy game, but I hate the Land Grant,” former Penn State Associate Athletic Director for Communications Budd Thalman said. “I can’t imagine wanting to win that.”
“We take a lot of pride in keeping the most beautiful trophy in all of college football home, the Land Grant Trophy,” Penn State head coach James Franklin said before 2017’s game. “What makes it so beautiful is how unorthodox it is.”