Gophers fan preserving U history

Michael Dougherty

Leave it to a couple of country-bumpkin Midwestern schools to play a football game for a pig.
Thanks to a bet between Iowa Gov. Clyde Herring and Minnesota Gov. Floyd B. Olson in 1935, the legend of “Floyd of Rosedale” was spawned and the trophy has been given to the winner each year since.
The original bet was for an actual live pig, a product of Rosedale Farms near Fort Dodge, Iowa, and named for the Minnesota governor.
After the Gophers won the 1935 game 13-6, Herring and the pig made the trip to the state capital to present Olson with his trophy.
St. Paul sculptor Charles Brioscho was commissioned by the University to sculpt a trophy in Floyd’s image. Brioscho created the 15 inch-high, 21 inch-long bronze trophy which is temporarily in a trophy case in Iowa City thanks to the Hawkeyes 31-0 blanking of the Gophers last year.
But noted local sports historian Bob Patrin, of Edina, said he has a pig of his own which he claims made that initial trip to Iowa City after the bet was first made.
Patrin, who graduated from the University in 1954 and worked on and off for the school for more than 30 years, said legendary Gophers coach Bernie Bierman sent one of his assistants to a Minneapolis butcher shop to find a suitable trophy. He returned with the plywood pig.
“Minnesota couldn’t very well bring a live pig down on the Pullman (train) to Iowa,” Patrin said. “I think what happened was Bierman knew emotions in Iowa were running high, and if he happened to leave the game without anything to give to Iowa — if they had beaten them — there would be trouble.
“Bierman wasn’t going to admit that he thought his team could even lose, so to defuse the situation he would present them this pig with all of the signatures on it.”
The sign is painted gold on one side with maroon trim, and the phrase “Meat U Can Eat” is barely legible under the gold paint. On the other side are hundreds of signatures of players, coaches, trainers and even secretaries who were part of the athletic department in 1935.
Those names include former football coach Dr. George Hauser, who took over for Bierman when he entered the Marines in 1941, coach Herbert Crisler, who was the Gophers coach in 1930-31 and later went to Michigan where Crisler Arena was named for him.
Former Gophers’ equipment Oscar Munson’s name is also on the pig. Munson is famous in Gophers folklore as the man who started the Little Brown Jug rivalry between Michigan and Minnesota.
Along with the pig, Patrin has a basement full of Gophers memorabilia, including trophies of various athletic championships, basketballs from the 1919 championship team and several jerseys from former Gophers such as Bruce Smith, Bud Grant and Paul Giel.
He has gathered all of these collectibles in the past, thanks to his reputation as a man who would take things when the University ran out of storage space.
Patrin claims the University has lost an incredible amount of mementos because of carelessness. He said a great deal of things were misplaced or destroyed when the football team moved its offices from Cooke Hall to the Bierman building while Lou Holtz was the coach in the mid-1980’s.
Holtz, Patrin claims, contributed to the carelessness because he says Holtz always “thinks he is the greatest coach in the history of whatever school he’s at, whether it be Arkansas, Minnesota or Notre Dame.”
With such a love of athletic history, Patrin said he is extremely disappointed with the lack of tradition today’s teams operate under.
“If (Gophers coach Glen) Mason was on Michigan Public Radio saying he doesn’t even know what the Little Brown Jug was,” Patrin said, “or like when Holtz was here and didn’t even know what Paul Bunyan’s Axe was, it tells you something about the priority of history.
“When Holtz beat Wisconsin his first year here, he saw somebody carrying that big axe around and thought somebody was coming after him.”
Both coaches in Saturday’s game said they each knew one thing about Floyd of Rosedale.
“I’ve heard about it, but I haven’t seen it yet,” Mason said. “It’s big, that’s all I know.”
And Iowa coach Hayden Fry agreed Mason’s description of Floyd.
“He’s awful heavy and he’s got a little curl in his tail,” Fry said of Floyd. “Those two governors way back had a lot of fun with that, and the fans had a lot of fun, but I haven’t really emphasized Floyd of Rosedale. I have a hard enough time just remembering his name.”
Yet despite the two coaches downplaying the significance of the trophy, senior Gophers defensive tackle Antoine Richard knows one thing about the bronzed boar.
“I know it hasn’t been here since I’ve been here and that’s all I care about,” he said. “I want to beat them before I leave.”