Rivalry games in a two-division conference

Brewster hopes to keep playing Wisconsin and Iowa annually, whether or not the teams end up in the same division.

Gophers football Head Coach Tim Brewster hopes to continue playing rivalry games against Wisconsin and Iowa each year, whether or not the teams end up in the same division.

Mark Vancleave

Gophers football Head Coach Tim Brewster hopes to continue playing rivalry games against Wisconsin and Iowa each year, whether or not the teams end up in the same division.

Derek Wetmore

CHICAGO âÄî With four âÄútrophyâÄù games, the Gophers have more memento-based rivalries than any other team in college football. Tim Brewster doesnâÄôt want conference reshuffling to compromise that. When Nebraska becomes the 12th Big Ten team in 2011, the conference will split into two divisions, commissioner Jim Delany confirmed Monday at the annual Big Ten Media Days. While competitive balance and geographical coherency are main factors in who gets put where, the conference will have the additional concern of maintaining some key rivalries developed over the last century and beyond. Brewster, despite a 0-9 record in his three seasonâÄôs worth of trophy games with the Gophers, was among the more adamant of conference coaches about how the division should happen. His concern was maintaining MinnesotaâÄôs rivalries, particularly with Wisconsin and Iowa, which he says are âÄúvitally important to the Big Ten.âÄù âÄúThe Big Ten is all about the traditions and the rivalries,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúPlaying for the Floyd of Rosedale and playing for Paul BunyanâÄôs Axe is important to those states.âÄù The Floyd of Rosedale came about in 1935 when, in a telegram to Iowa Gov. Clyde Herring, Minnesota Gov. Floyd Olson boasted, âÄúI will bet you a Minnesota prize hog against an Iowa prize hog that Minnesota wins.âÄù Minnesota won the game and indeed a live, prize hog. It died after about a year, and Olson commissioned St. Paul artist Charles Brioschi to sculpt a 21-inch bronze statue of the hog. Paul BunyanâÄôs Axe didnâÄôt come about until 1948, but commemorates the longest rivalry in Division 1-A football. The results of each game between Minnesota and Wisconsin are etched on the handle, dating back to the GophersâÄô 63-0 victory in 1890. Brewster said that, after speaking to Delany and Athletics Director Joel Maturi, heâÄôs sure the Gophers will continue to play for those trophies each year. What Brewster, or anyone, doesnâÄôt know is whether the Gophers will continue the tradition of usually ending each season against the Hawkeyes, or whether theyâÄôll continue to alternate the Wisconsin game between Madison and Minneapolis. âÄúJust feel confident that weâÄôll play those two,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúI donâÄôt think thereâÄôs any question that as we look at realignment, Mr. Delany is going to figure out a way in which we play each other each and every year.âÄù Delaney said he hopes to have a divisional structure worked out in 30 to 45 days. âÄúI was very excited when I heard Jim talk about setting the parameters for setting the conference,âÄù Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said. âÄú[He talked about] preserving those rivalries.âÄù Bielema warned of negative reactions that could be spurred by breaking up the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry. âÄúYouâÄôre going to get the die-hards that are into that rivalry that [will say], âÄòYou will never be able to replace history,âÄôâÄù he said. While no decision has been made, and Gophers Athletics Director Joel Maturi said itâÄôs not a foregone conclusion that Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota will all be placed in the same division, Delany hasnâÄôt turned a blind eye to the fact that matchups in trophy games support rivalries that are the âÄúlifebloodâÄù of Big Ten football. âÄúWeâÄôll need to do everything we can to preserve those [rivalries],âÄù Delany said. âÄúWhether or not weâÄôll be 100 percent able to preserve every trophy game or every rivalry game, IâÄôll tell you weâÄôll go to great lengths to make sure that the tradition and rivalries are respected.âÄù Added Maturi: âÄúI think we need to have the courage to look at the big picture and whatâÄôs best for the conference. I think competitive equality is the first measure of what is [best]. [Preserving] traditional rivalries is high on the list.âÄù Maturi also said that, however the football divisions played out, the conference hasnâÄôt decided how and if those changes would affect other sports âÄî which donâÄôt need a pair of divisions to facilitate a championship. If Delany has an eye toward rivalry games, itâÄôs likely that at least the Minnesota-Wisconsin yearly game would survive, being the oldest rivalry in college football. âÄúWe may have 15 trophy games, rivalry games that are in that same number,âÄù Delaney said. âÄúWeâÄôll need to do everything we can to preserve those.âÄù The GophersâÄô oldest and newest trophy games âÄî against Michigan and Penn State, respectively âÄî arenâÄôt played on an annual basis. Penn State beat the Gophers 20-0 this season, and Michigan beat them 29-6 in 2008. âÄúItâÄôs important to fight and compete to get those trophies, because we donâÄôt have one,âÄù Brewster said.