A brief history of the Little Brown Jug

The origin of the trophy can be traced back to the 1903 football game between Minnesota and Michigan.

by Adam Richard

The Little Brown Jug rivalry has deep roots, and its interesting history of theft, imitation and recreation throughout the years still is up for debate.

The origin of the trophy, however, can be linked back to the 1903 football game between Minnesota and Michigan.

The Wolverines came to Minnesota on Oct. 31, 1903 on a 29-game winning streak. Neither team had lost a game that season.

During the game, Michigan head coach Fielding H. Yost had a white (not brown) earthenware jug that was used to hold water for the team.

The game was a hard-nosed football battle that ended in a 6-6 tie in old Northrop Field. After the game, Michigan student manager Tommy Roberts accidentally left the jug behind, and custodian Oscar Munson stumbled upon it and delivered it to Minnesota athletics department head L.J. Cooke.

Cooke asked Gophers head coach Doc Williams if he should return the jug, and Williams reportedly said, âÄúMake them win it back.âÄù

Cooke hung the jug up in his office with the score of the game painted on it. The jug stayed, suspended in CookeâÄôs office for the next six years.

In 1909, the day before Michigan played Minnesota, Yost went to CookeâÄôs office to meet with both him and Williams and saw the jug hanging.

He didnâÄôt realize what it was until Williams told him it had been left there after the game in 1903. They decided at that meeting to let the jug pass back and forth to the winner of the rivalry.

There are many other branches to this origin that make the history mythical.

There are stories of Yost writing to Minnesota to get his jug back, that the jug was a good luck charm and Michigan wrote the scores from their winning streak on it, and that the jug was stolen back and forth on numerous occasions.

None of these stories have been proven, but each adds to the legacy of one of the longest-running rivalries in college football.

Minnesota heads to Michigan this year attempting to re-acquire the jug for the first time since 2005. The Gophers have an all-time record of 24-69-3 in the rivalry.

Now, with the Big TenâÄôs new divisions in place, the Gophers can look forward to playing the Wolverines each year for the Little Brown Jug.