November 19, 2008

Gophers Get Axed Again

The Gophers play for the most trophies in college football, but they don’t have any of them. It makes me wonder why there are even these ridiculous trophies in the first place.

Paul Bunyan’s Axe belongs to Wisconsin after a 35-32 loss at Camp Randall on Saturday. The Little Brown Jug, the second oldest trophy in college football, belongs to the Michigan Wolverines after a 22-3 in the Dome earlier this year. Penn State still owns the Governor’s Victory Bell. The Gophers last hope is a pig.

Floyd of Rosedale will travel from Iowa City on Saturday to the Metrodome where the Gopher will square off against the Hawkeyes in the last game of the regular season. Iowa is currently on the high hog, if you will, after defeating the Gophers last season.

So what’s the deal with all these trophies? Tradition is the short answer. Every one of these trophies is from ridiculous anecdotes from the past. But at some point, tradition needs to graduate. I bet you didn’t know that the Gophers play for the Little Brown Jug because in 1903 Michigan head coach Fielding Yost left it in Minnesota, and so they have been playing for it ever since.

Traditions can be good or bad (see lutefisk or “The Lottery?) and these trophies need to go, I am sick of them. The Gophers should just give away the trophies, or concede them, because for the last two years they haven’t had the opportunity to hoist them over their shoulders after a victory. They won’t be hoisting Floyd either; the Hawkeyes have won Floyd five of the last six meetings.

Do these trophies inspire the players to play better? No. It comes down to talent. Do they work as a motivational tool? Maybe. What are they really? A distraction to both teams, they should be focusing on the task at hand, winning a football game, not a bell or an axe.

But don’t take it from me. Brandon Hagen played football with the Gophers for three years. He wasn’t a starter or a star player, but on special teams he contributed to the teams he played on.

“Coach (Glen Mason) would talk about the axe more than he would about the strategy of the games,? Hagen said. “Maybe if we would have spent a little more time on punt team (which Hagen was on) we wouldn’t have had that punt blocked and would have beat Wisconsin in 2005.?

I can see Brewster being worse than Mason when ranting about these trophies. His excitable personality is to blame.

Well, what can they play for instead of trophies? There has to be something substantial they are playing for behind our backs. A secret pact between college football teams that play for trophies? Playing for the other team’s best recruit is what their doing, and since the Gophers have typically lost to Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa and Penn State it would make since. The Gophers have been giving all of their best players to the other teams.

Now, the only way to pull it off would be recruiting. The conspiracy would be obvious if players blatantly switched teams. Former Gopher coach Lou Holtz and current Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez are laughing with each other, both at the Gophers.

All the great players that have passed through the Big Ten in the last decade could have all been Gophers. There’s no way to tell. Michigan running back Chris Hart was committed to Minnesota, but then they lost the jug in 2001, and he ended up at the Big House. Star linebacker Chad Greenway, now a Minnesota Viking, was ready to play on turf at the Dome for half his games, but Floyd the pig thought otherwise.

So until Brewster and the Gophers can focus on winning some games against these four trophy schools, recruiting will be near impossible, and so will winning, a vicious cycle.