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12 Unusual College Football Trophies

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With the college football season in full swing, several teams have a reasonable shot at the two national championship trophies. But that's not the only hardware that will change hands this season, since many intercollegiate rivalries have their own special trophies. Some are pretty standard silver cups or plaques, while others are a bit more esoteric. Here are a few of our favorites.

1. Illibuck—Illinois vs. Ohio State

When Illinois and Ohio State met during the 1925 season, they had a new prize in their sights: a live turtle named Illy Illibuck. Why a turtle? Turtles have long life expectancies, and the students wanted to honor the long life of the rivalry. Unfortunately, this particular turtle didn't live so long; it died in 1927. At that point, a wooden turtle took its place, and it's been exchanged ever since.

2. Case Western Reserve vs. College of Wooster—The Baird Brothers Trophy

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It's not just big football powerhouses that exchange weird trophies; little schools can get in on the act, too. Take, for instance, the Baird Brothers Trophy. In 1984 Case Western Reserve econ professor Bob Baird worked with his brother Bob, an econ prof at the College of Wooster, to come up with prize for the winner of their two schools' meetings. They came up with a truly original idea: the Baird Brothers trophy is a golden fish stringer. The winner of each game gets to keep the stringer for a year and add a brass fish that symbolizes how the game was played. According to Case Western's website, aggressive fish such as pike represent blowout wins, while smaller swimmers like bluegill represent tightly contested wins. Case has won the stringer 14 times (including a 28-7 win this season) to Wooster's six. [Image courtesy of Case Western Reserve.]

3. Colorado State vs. Wyoming—The Bronze Boot

Colorado State and Wyoming have a particularly fierce rivalry where players give it their all in an effort to win a boot. Yes, a boot. In 1968 the ROTC detachments at the two schools started sponsoring a trophy for the two rivals; they chose a bronzed combat boot. Colorado State grad Captain Jeff Romero originally wore the boot in Vietnam. The two teams have both won the Bronze Boot twenty times. The ROTC detachments of these schools didn't just come up with the trophy, though; they plan an integral role in each game of the rivalry. Every year the two groups join together in a relay to run the game ball from the visiting school's campus to the home stadium.

4. UC Davis vs. Sacramento State—The Causeway Carriage

Another small-school rivalry has a huge trophy. The Causeway Classic is the annual clash between UC Davis and Cal State, Sacramento, so named because the Yolo Causeway connects the two schools. In 1960, Sacramento State alum Jeri Striezik donated a Victorian carriage for use as a trophy in the series. If a team lost, it had to pay the freight to get the coach to the winner's campus, where it would be used for events like homecoming parades. The carriage missed a few years of the rivalry, but it made a triumphant return for the 2003 Causeway Classic.

5. Notre Dame vs. USC—Jeweled Shillelagh

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Notre Dame-USC is one of college football's classic rivalries, and the Jeweled Shillelagh goes to the winner of the annual tilt. The name is pretty apt; the trophy is a classic cudgel made of Irish wood that's been covered with the jeweled logo of the winning team each year. The Notre Dame Alumni Club of Los Angeles introduced the shillelagh in 1952, but that club ran out of room for more logos in 1989. It's now retired and sits on display at Notre Dame while a larger replacement shillelagh changes hands each year. Since the medallions date back to the beginning of the rivalry in 1926, emerald shamrocks outnumber ruby Trojan heads 42 to 32.

6. Wisconsin vs. Minnesota—Paul Bunyan's Axe

Wisconsin-Minnesota is the oldest rivalry in the NCAA's Division I Football Bowl Subdivision; it stretches all the way back to 1890. The two teams have met 117 times, and since 1948 have duked it out for Paul Bunyan's Axe, which is a pretty neat trophy. However, the giant axe is no match for the more bizarre trophy it replaced, the Slab of Bacon. The Slab of Bacon was just a piece of walnut wood topped with a football that featured carvings of the games' scores. From 1930 to 1942, the Slab of Bacon traveled to the winner's campus, but after the Gophers won in 1943, coach George Hauser refused the trophy. (This sort of killjoy behavior would be tolerable from, say, Knute Rockne, but Hauser's career record was only 15-11-1.) The Slab of Bacon was misplaced, and the schools thought it had been lost forever. In 1994, though, Wisconsin's athletic department found it in a closet during a renovation, and now it's proudly on display in their offices.

7. Minnesota vs. Michigan—The Little Brown Jug

Something about Minnesota just invites odd trophies. The Little Brown Jug, which goes to the winner of the Minnesota-Michigan game, dates all the way back to 1903. When Michigan coach Fielding Yost took his squad to Minnesota that year, he was worried that the Minnesota fans might resort to any sort of chicanery they needed to pull out a win, including tampering with the Wolverines' drinking water. The coaching staff dispatched student manager Thomas B. Roberts to buy a vessel for clean water, and Roberts returned with a five-gallon jug he'd purchased for 30 cents. When Gopher fans stormed the field at the end of the tie game (the first game Michigan hadn't won during Yost's entire tenure as coach), the Wolverines left the jug behind. When a janitor brought the jug to the to the Gophers' coaching staff, they wrote the score of the game on the side. Although Yost asked the Gophers to return his jug, they quipped that he'd have to win it back, and a traveling trophy was born.

8. Minnesota vs. Iowa—Floyd of Rosedale

Floyd-of-Rosedale.jpgIn 1935, Minnesota Governor Floyd B. Olson made a little wager with Iowa Governor Clyde Herring. The previous year's contest between the Hawkeyes and Gophers had been a bit contentious as Minnesota players gunned for Iowa's African-American running back Ozzie Simmons. So the two governors thought a bet might alleviate the simmering tensions. Olson sent Herring a telegram proposing that the winning team's governor would get a prize hog from the loser's state. Herring happily accepted, and the two men started making jokes about their bet to lighten the mood. (Not everyone saw the fun, though; activists in Iowa tried to get Herring in trouble for breaking gambling laws. For his part, Herring gamely retorted that it wasn't gambling if Minnesota had no chance of winning.)

Minnesota won the game 13-7, and the following week, Herring showed up at the Minnesota Capitol building with a live hog in tow. The pig was named Floyd of Rosedale after Minnesota's governor and the Iowa town where it was born. Sculptor Charles Brioscho made a trophy in Floyd's likeness, and it's still passed between the two teams.

9. Iowa State vs. Missouri—The Telephone Trophy

telephone-trophy.jpgThis trophy, which is a half-red, half-yellow rotary phone on a wooden base, commemorates an incident that occurred before the 1959 game between Iowa State and Missouri. Somehow the wires of the telephones that connected the coaches' boxes to the field became crossed. As a result, each set of coaches knew exactly what the other staff was saying during preparations for the grudge match. Although technicians fixed the problem before the game started, the two coaching staffs were still flummoxed by the situation and remained very suspicious that their plans were leaking out. To commemorate the episode, the Northwestern Bell Telephone Company of Ames, Iowa, created the trophy, which has become a key part of the Big 12 rivalry.

10. Purdue vs. Illinois—The Purdue Cannon

In 1905, a group of Purdue students took a cannon with them to Champaign for a game against Illinois. Their plan was to fire the cannon after the Boilermakers won. (Say what you will about today's college students being out of control, but their hijinks rarely involve artillery.) Purdue won the game, but Illinois fans intercepted the cannon at its hiding place and confiscated it. In 1943 the cannon started being passed back and forth as a traveling trophy for the Big Ten rivalry.

11. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute vs. Union College—Dutchman's Shoes

When Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Union College square off, they're not just angling for supremacy among small New York schools; they're also gunning for a pair of clogs. Since 1950, the RPI's Engineers and Union's Dutchmen have competed for the Dutchman's Shoes, a pair of clogs mounted on a wooden base. Each school has its color and initial painted on one of the two shoes.

12. Texas vs. Oklahoma—The Golden Hat

The Red River Shootout, the meeting between Texas and Oklahoma, is always a highlight of the year's slate of college games. The two teams vie for the Golden Hat, a gold replica of a ten-gallon cowboy hat that the Texas State Fair donated—a token of gratitude for the two teams agreeing play in Dallas during the fair each year starting in 1929. The trophy was originally known as the Bronze Hat but received a refurbishing in the 1970s that made it look golden. This year, Texas defeated Oklahoma, 45-35.

Ethan Trex co-writes Straight Cash, Homey, the Internet's undisputed top source for pictures of people in Ryan Leaf jerseys.

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10 Regional Twists on Trick-or-Treating
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Walk around any given American neighborhood on the night of October 31, and you’ll likely hear choruses of "trick-or-treat" chiming through the area. The sing-songy phrase is synonymous with Halloween in some parts of the world, but it's not the only way kids get sweets from their neighbors this time of year. From the Philippines to the American Midwest, here are some regional door-to-door traditions you may not have heard of.

1. PANGANGALULUWA // THE PHILIPPINES

Rice cakes wrapped in leaves.
Suman

The earliest form of trick-or-treating on Halloween can be traced back to Europe in the Middle Ages. Kids would don costumes and go door-to-door offering prayers for dead relatives in exchange for snacks called "soul cakes." When the cake was eaten, tradition held that a soul was ferried from purgatory into heaven. Souling has disappeared from Ireland and the UK, but a version of it lives on halfway across the world in the Philippines. During All Saints Day on November 1, Filipino children taking part in Pangangaluluwa will visit local houses and sing hymns for alms. The songs often relate to souls in purgatory, and carolers will play the part of the souls by asking for prayers. Kids are sometimes given rice cakes called suman, a callback to the soul cakes from centuries past.

2. PÃO-POR-DEUS // PORTUGAL

Raw dough.
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Instead of trick-or-treating, kids in Portugal go door-to-door saying pão-por-deus ("bread for god") in exchange for goodies on All Saints Day. Some homeowners give out money or candy, while others offer actual baked goods.

3. HALLOWEEN APPLES // WESTERN CANADA

Kids trick-or-treating.
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If they're not calling out "trick-or-treat" on their neighbors’ doorsteps on Halloween night, you may hear children in western Canada saying "Halloween apples!" The phrase is left over from a time when apples were a common Halloween treat and giving out loose items on the holiday wasn't considered taboo.

4. ST. MARTIN'S DAY // THE NETHERLANDS

The Dutch wait several days after Halloween to do their own take on trick-or-treating. On the night of November 11, St. Martin's Day, children in the Netherlands take to the streets with their homemade lanterns in hand. These lanterns were traditionally carved from beets or turnips, but today they’re most commonly made from paper. And the kids who partake don’t get away with shouting a few words at each home they visit—they’re expected to sing songs to receive their sugary rewards.

5. A PENNY FOR THE GUY // THE UK

Guy Fawkes Night celebration.

Peter Trimming, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

Guy Fawkes Night is seen by some as the English Protestants’ answer to the Catholic holidays associated with Halloween, so it makes sense that it has its own spin on trick-or-treating. November 5 marks the day of Guy Fawkes’s failed assassination attempt on King James as part of the Gunpowder Plot. To celebrate the occasion, children will tour the neighborhood asking for "a penny for the guy." Sometimes they’ll carry pictures of the would-be-assassin which are burned in the bonfires lit later at night.

6. TRICKS FOR TREATS // ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

Kids knocking on a door in costume.
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If kids in the St. Louis area hope to go home with a full bag of candy on Halloween, they must be willing to tickle some funny bones. Saying "tricks-for-treats" followed by a joke replaces the classic trick-or-treat mantra in this Midwestern city. There’s no criteria for the quality or the subject of the joke, but spooky material (What’s a skeleton’s favorite instrument? The trombone!) earns brownie points.

7. ME DA PARA MI CALAVERITA // MEXICO

Sugar skulls with decoration.
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While Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is completely separate from Halloween, the two holidays share a few things in common. Mexicans celebrate the day by dressing up, eating sweet treats, and in some parts of the country, going house-to-house. Children knocking on doors will say "me da para mi calaverita" or "give me money for my little skull," a reference to the decorated sugar skulls sold in markets at this time of year.

8. HALLOWEEN! // QUEBEC, CANADA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
iStock

Trick-or-treaters like to keep things simple in the Canadian province of Quebec. In place of the alliterative exclamation, they shout “Halloween!” at each home they visit. Adults local to the area might remember saying "la charité s’il-vous-plaît "(French for “charity, please”) when going door-to-door on Halloween, but this saying has largely fallen out of fashion.

9. SWEET OR SOUR // GERMANY

Little girl trick-or-treating.
iStock

Halloween is only just beginning to gain popularity in Germany. Where it is celebrated, the holiday looks a lot like it does in America, but Germans have managed to inject some local character into their version of trick-or-treat. In exchange for candy, kids sometimes sing out "süß oder saures"—or "sweet and sour" in English.

10. TRIQUI, TRIQUI HALLOWEEN // COLOMBIA

Kids dressed up for Halloween.
Rubí Flórez, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Kids in Colombia anticipate dressing up and prowling the streets on Halloween just as much as kids do in the States. There are a few significant variations on the annual tradition: Instead of visiting private residencies, they're more likely to ask for candy from store owners and the security guards of apartment buildings. And instead of saying trick-or-treat, they recite this Spanish rhyme:

Triqui triqui Halloween
Quiero dulces para mí
Si no hay dulces para mí
Se le crece la naríz

In short, it means that if the grownups don't give the kids the candy they're asking for, their noses will grow. Tricky, tricky indeed

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Hey, Vern: It's the Ernest P. Worrell Story
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In her review of the 1991 children’s comedy Ernest Scared Stupid, The Washington Post film critic Rita Kempley described the titular character, the dim-witted but well-meaning Ernest P. Worrell, as “the global village idiot.” As portrayed by Kentucky native Jim Varney, Ernest was in the middle of a 10-film franchise that would see him mistakenly incarcerated (Ernest Goes to Jail), enlisting in the military (Ernest in the Army), substituting for an injured Santa (Ernest Saves Christmas), and returning to formal education in order to receive his high school diploma (Ernest Goes to School).

Unlike slapstick contemporaries Yahoo Serious and Pauly Shore, Varney took a far more unusual route to film stardom. With advertising executive John Cherry III, Varney originated the Ernest character in a series of regional television commercials. By one estimate, Ernest appeared in over 6000 spots, hawking everything from ice cream to used cars. They grew so popular that the pitchman had a 20,000-member fan club before his first movie, 1987’s Ernest Goes to Camp, was even released.

Varney and Ernest became synonymous, so much so that the actor would dread going on dates for fear Ernest fans would approach him; he sometimes wore disguises to discourage recognition. Though he could recite Shakespeare on a whim, Varney was rarely afforded the opportunity to expand his resume beyond the denim-jacketed character. It was for this reason that Varney, though grateful for Ernest’s popularity, would sometimes describe his notoriety as a “mixed blessing,” one that would come to a poignant end foreshadowed by one of his earliest commercials.

Born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1949, Varney spent his youth being reprimanded by teachers who thought his interest in theater shouldn’t replace attention paid to math or science. Varney disagreed, leaving high school just two weeks shy of graduation (he returned in the fall for his diploma) to head for New York with $65 in cash and a plan to perform.

The off-Broadway plays Varney appeared in were not lucrative, and he began to bounce back and forth between Kentucky and California, driving a truck when times were lean and appearing in TV shows like Petticoat Junction when his luck improved. During one of his sabbaticals from Hollywood, he met Cherry, who cast him as an aggressive military instructor named Sergeant Glory in an ad for a car dealer in Nashville, Tennessee.

In 1981, Varney was asked back to film a new spot for Cherry, this one for a dilapidated amusement park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, that Cherry considered so unimpressive he didn’t want to show it on camera. Instead, he created the character of Ernest P. Worrell, a fast-talking, often imbecilic local who is constantly harassing his neighbor Vern. (“Know what I mean, Vern?” became Ernest’s catchphrase.)

The spot was a hit, and soon Varney and Cherry were being asked to film spots for Purity Dairies, pizza parlors, convenience stores, and other local businesses. In the spots, Ernest would usually look into the camera—the audience shared Vern’s point of view—and endorse whatever business had enlisted his services, usually stopping only when Vern devised a way to get him out of sight.

Although the Purity commercials initially drew complaints—the wide-angle lens created a looming Ernest that scared some children—his fame grew, and Varney became a rarity in the ad business: a mascot without a permanent corporate home. He and Cherry would film up to 26 spots in a day, all targeted for a specific region of the country. In some areas, people would call television stations asking when the next Ernest spot was due to air. A Fairfax, Virginia Toyota dealership saw a 50 percent spike in sales after Varney began appearing in ads.

Logging thousands of spots in hundreds of markets, Varney once said that if they had all been national, he and Cherry would have been wealthy beyond belief. But local spots had local budgets, and the occasions where Ernest was recruited for a major campaign were sometimes prohibited by exclusivity contracts: He and Cherry had to turn down Chevrolet due to agreements with local, competing car dealers.

Still, Varney made enough to buy a 10-acre home in Kentucky, expressing satisfaction with the reception of the Ernest character and happily agreeing to a four-picture deal with Disney’s Touchstone Pictures for a series of Ernest features. Released on a near-constant basis between 1987 and 1998, the films were modest hits (Ernest Goes to Camp made $28 million) before Cherry—who directed several of them—and Varney decided to strike out on their own, settling into a direct-to-video distribution model.

“It's like Oz, and the Wizard ain't home," Varney told the Sun Sentinel in 1985, anticipating his desire for autonomy. “Hollywood is a place where everything begins but nothing originates. It's this big bunch of egos slamming into each other.”

Varney was sometimes reticent to admit he had ambitions beyond Ernest, believing his love of Shakespeare and desire to perform Hamlet would be perceived as the cliched story of a clown longing to be serious. He appeared in 1994’s The Beverly Hillbillies and as the voice of Slinky Dog in 1995’s Toy Story. But Ernest would continue to be his trademark.

The movies continued through 1998, at which point Varney noticed a nagging cough. It turned out to be lung cancer. As Ernest, Varney had filmed an anti-smoking public service announcement in the 1980s. In his private life, he was a chain smoker. He succumbed to cancer in 2000 at the age of 50, halting a series of planned Ernest projects that included Ernest Goes to Space and Ernest and the Voodoo Curse.

Varney may never have gotten an opportunity to perform in a wider variety of roles, but he did receive some acknowledgment for the one he had mastered. In 1989, Varney took home an Emmy for Outstanding Performer in a children’s series, a CBS Saturday morning show titled Hey, Vern: It’s Ernest!

“It’s a blessing and a curse,” he told the Orlando Sentinel in 1991, “because it's as hard to escape from it as it is to get into it.''

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