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The Iowa-Minnesota pig trophy’s history is much deeper than it probably seems

The Floyd of Rosedale has been around since 1935, with two significant moments in the sport’s integration history revolving around it.

Minnesota v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

The Minnesota Golden Gophers take on the Iowa Hawkeyes this Saturday, and for the 82nd year, the two teams will be playing for the Floyd of Rosedale trophy, which has been in existence since 1935.

The trophy is a pig with some past results displayed across its back.

Minnesota v Iowa Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images

It all started back in 1934, when Minnesota beat Iowa at Iowa Stadium 48-12.

The Gophers went on to win the national championship that year. However, Iowa fans at the game were unhappy with how Minnesota played, claiming the defense deliberately went after Iowa running back Ozzie Simmons hard. Simmons, who went by the nickname Ebony Eel, was one of just a few black players in the conference at the time. The New York Times has a nice piece on Minnesota’s apparent history of targeting opposing black players:

According to Jaime Schultz, who teaches at Penn State and who wrote a research paper about the trophy’s history in 2005, Simmons was knocked unconscious three times before leaving the game in the second quarter. Eleven years earlier, Iowa State’s first black athlete, Jack Trice, died of injuries sustained in a game at Minnesota. (Iowa State’s stadium is named for Trice.)

Simmons, who died in 2001, told The Star Tribune of Minneapolis in a 1988 interview that he sustained bruised ribs from late hits and piling on.

“I really had the feeling they were after me because I was good,” he said. “Oh, I think me being black added a little oomph to it.”

In 1935, the Rosedale Trophy debuted, in an attempt to generate some goodwill between the two schools.

Ahead of the game at Iowa, the state’s governor warned Minnesota not to pull the same stunts it did the year before.

"Those Minnesotans will find 10 other top-notch football players besides ‘Oze’ Simmons against them this year,” Iowa governor Clyde Herring said. “Moreover if the officials stand for any rough tactics like Minnesota used last year, I'm sure the crowd won't."

Minnesota governor Floyd B. Olson, whom the trophy is named after, tried to cool down some of the tensions by proposing a bet.

Greatly alarmed, Governor Olson tried to cool the high emotions on both sides with a telegram that stated, “Minnesota folks are excited over your statement about Iowa crowds lynching the Minnesota football team. I have assured them that you are a law abiding gentlemen and are only trying to get our goat. I will bet you a Minnesota prize hog against an Iowa prize hog that Minnesota wins.”

Minnesota won the game 13-6. The real hog wasn’t awarded immediately after the game — instead, a wooden pig was.

The wooden pig came back to Dinkytown. For years it was hung in Cooke Hall. Visitors continued to add their names to the pig. At some point when the old wooden sign was headed to the garbage, it was saved by a University of Minnesota employee, Bob Patrin, who still owns it today.

Bob was kind enough to let me see the wooden pig and other treasures acquired from his career working for the U of M. While I haven't been able to corroborate any of the versions of the story he told me, it seems like a plausible tale.

The sign might be from Harvard Meat Market, located at 804 Washington Ave SE, the only butcher/meat market/pig shop I could locate as being around the University in the 1930s. At any rate what is cool about this wooden sign is it is the oldest, shortest lived, and only trophy to never change hands from Minnesota in the Iowa - Minnesota rivalry.

Wooden Butcher sign with 1935 Gopher players names signed in pencil.
Daily Gopher

A week later, the live trophy hog was delivered from Herring to Olson, and the thing was a beaut:

Via Minnesota Historical Society

The hog was from Rosedale Farms near Fort Dodge, Iowa, and it was later named the Floyd of Rosedale after Minnesota’s governor. After the hog’s trophy days were over, he spent his days on a farm in southeast Minnesota, and the schools hired a St. Paul sculptor to create the rivalry’s current trophy in the pig’s likeness.

"It was a handsome hog, handsome Hampshire with the white belt," Donald Gjerdrum, whose father bought the hog from the University of Minnesota, said. "Yea, it was a special hog, you bet."

In 1960, the teams played their biggest game ever. It was also a notable moment in the sport’s integration.

Minnesota won, 27-10, when the Gophers were ranked No. 3 and the Hawkeyes No. 1.

Wilburn Hollis, a bruising 6’2, 210-pounder who would lead the Big Ten in total touchdowns, had taken over the Iowa starting job and thrived. He churned through arm tackles, and his arm was one of college football’s strongest – too strong, in fact. Despite decent accuracy, he completed only 35 percent of his passes in 1960 because receivers sometimes couldn’t hold onto the bullets coming at them.

Minnesota junior Sandy Stephens, meanwhile, was an even sturdier 215 pounds. His passing numbers were similar to Hollis’, and he didn’t have to carry as much of the rushing load because of the work of fullback Roger Hagberg, who would go on to play five seasons with the AFL’s Oakland Raiders.

Despite losing eight of 11 starters, head coach Forest Evashevski’s Iowa offense was one of the nation’s best in 1960; despite a brutal schedule, the Hawkeyes averaged 26 points per game, fifth in the NCAA. Minnesota, meanwhile, averaged a healthy 22.8 per game.

The Big Ten was loaded in 1960, with eight teams spending part of the season ranked in the AP top 20. But Evy’s Hawkeyes and Murray Warmath’s Gophers stood out from the pack, and quarterback play was a major reason why.

Both quarterbacks were black, an extreme rarity at the time.

Though the Big Ten certainly wasn’t as entrenched in segregationist practices the way the SEC was in 1960, the Hawkeyes and Gophers were still among the first major college football teams to start an African American at quarterback. While Iowa had in many ways been ahead of its time by prominently featuring black stars such as Archie Alexander, Cal Jones, Duke Slater, Emlen Tunnell, and Ozzie Simmons, Minnesota football had long been plagued with racist attitudes towards African Americans.

Ever since, the game’s had staying power as a trophy contest. Some rumors circulated in 2017 about potentially bringing back a live hog to the game.

It didn’t happen, though Kirk Ferentz said that Iowa would “find a really nice home” for a pig. Nobody has ruled it out, which means you can hold out hope.