MIAC Friday Feature: Rivalry trophies enhance MIAC's history and tradition

MIAC Friday Feature: Rivalry trophies enhance MIAC's history and tradition

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- In the winter of 1914, Carleton College ventured to the other side of Northfield, Minn., for an important men's basketball game against cross-town rival St. Olaf College. When the Knights arrived on the Oles' campus, they found an odd symbol waiting for them - a wooden statue of a goat.

Legend has it that St. Olaf student (and eventual Ole head men's basketball coach) Endre Anderson wanted to, "get the goat," of the visiting Carleton team - literally. So he fashioned a makeshift goat out of a chair and hung it from the rafters of the St. Olaf gymnasium. However, Anderson's plan backfired. The visiting Knights claimed the victory and, in celebration of their triumph, Anderson's goat statue as well. The team pulled "The Goat" down from the rafters and brought it home as a symbol of their victory.

Today, 102 years later, the legend of "The Goat" is still going strong, and the winner of the Carleton-St. Olaf men's basketball series still claims the historic rivalry trophy each season.

The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) was founded nearly 100 years ago - in 1920, to be exact - but, as the story of "The Goat" proves, some of the conference's richest rivalries even predate the formation of the league. "The Goat" is the oldest rivalry trophy in the conference on record, but it certainly isn't alone.


MIAC student-athletes currently square off with rivalry trophies on the line in football, men's and women's basketball, and even swimming and diving and track and field. Some, like "The Goat," have been around for decades and carry rich back stories. Others are much newer, but all carry a similar important significance.

Currently, MIAC teams battle for more than a dozen different rivalry trophies or tokens, including "The Goat," "The Paint Bucket," "The Troll," "The Margate Memorial Trophy," "The Book of Knowledge," "The Holy Grail," "The Presidents Cup," "The Hammer," "The Rolex Trophy," "The Karhu Shoe" and "The Rusty Putter." The stories behind each range from interesting to noble to hilarious, and each adds a layer of significance to each rivalry.

While the trophies themselves are unique, historic, and symbolic of important victories, their importance to the conference and its schools extends even further. These unique items serve as tangible, physical evidence of the history and rivalries throughout the MIAC, and add to the tradition and lore of college athletics. These celebrated items are woven into the very fabric of the MIAC; they serve as current symbols of achievement and also provide a connection to the storied past.

Carleton and St. Olaf battle for "The Goat"
in men's basketball (top) and football (bottom).

(Photos courtesy of Carleton Sports Information) 

Carleton and St. Olaf started the rivalry trophy phenomenon, so it makes sense that their rivalry is literally the most decorated in the MIAC. The Knights and Oles battle for at least six different rivalry trophies or tokens each year in football, men's basketball, women's basketball , men's track and field, cross country and men's golf.

Northfield's population is just 20,581, which lends a perfect backdrop for its two colleges to wage a rivalry that extends from campus throughout the entire community. The two schools are separated by a little more than a mile, and their proximity and similarities have fueled a historic and almost brotherly rivalry as the two battle each season for Northfield supremacy.

"For us, it's about who we're competing with for the trophies," said Carleton Athletic Director Gerald Young. "When it's 'The Goat' or 'The Presidents Cup' it means a lot, not just to the two schools, but to the whole community. That's what makes it fun, along with the tradition and the history."

The men's basketball trophy started it all, and football wanted to replicate the concept roughly 15 years later. The Knights and Oles football teams wanted to enhance the rivalry and complement the original trophy with one of their own, so a second, football-centric version of "The Goat" was introduced to the rivalry in 1931, and those two stood tall for the rest of the 20th century.

"My favorite memory of the football rivalry is the very first one I was involved with in 1992," said Young. "I had no idea how big of a deal it was until that game came up. The year before the two teams didn't play because of a snowstorm, so it was a huge deal. That year we won the MIAC championship, which meant a lot, but it would have meant nothing if we hadn't won 'The Goat.'"

In 2001-02, the two university Presidents decided that if the rivalry trophies were such a good thing for the men's sports, the women's side of things could use a trophy of  their own to play for. Enter, "The Presidents Cup," instituted by the two Presidents and presented to the winner of a St. Olaf-Carleton women's basketball game each season. Though the two usually play twice a year, the Cup is on the line in only one of the matchups, rotating annually between the two home courts.

The two schools also have a unique tradition in men's track and field. Each year, the Knights and Oles square off in "The Rolex Classic," which is like any other track dual meet, except for the determination of the winner and the prize. The two compete in each track and field event, but instead of keeping track of a cumulative score, one event at random is drawn out of a hat. Whichever school won that event, wins the meet and, most importantly, "The Rolex Trophy," which is and old Rolex watch the two teams have awarded to the victor for years.

The fun doesn't stop there. The two cross country programs compete in "The Karhu Shoe Race" each season, and the men's golf programs tee off for the right to claim "The Rusty Putter." With six different trophies on the line each season, the cross-town rivalry between St. Olaf and Carleton is certainly one of the most celebrated in the MIAC. The trophies put even more at stake, and have been an important part of the tradition and excitement surrounding the rivalry.

"It makes it that much more special and intense," Young said. "There is a strong desire to have that trophy in your case, no doubt about it. Once that game is over, it's going to be a flock to that trophy. It means a lot to both schools and the community."

Hamline celebrates with "The Paint Bucket" rivalry trophy
following its 2013 nonconference win over rival Macalester.
(Photo courtesy of Hamline Sports Information) 

The second incarnation of "The Goat" may have been the first MIAC football rivalry trophy, but several others have emerged in the 80-plus years since Carleton and St. Olaf started the trend. Hamline University and Macalester College introduced a trophy into their rivalry in 1965, and it's intent was quite noble. "The Paint Bucket" was introduced to cultivate a better relationship among the two Snelling Ave. rivals, rather than stoke the flames of competition.

In the 1960s, the Hamline-Macalester rivalry was so bitter players would vandalize the opposing campus with spray paint. That's when Pipers' alum Chuck Slocum ('69) decided to approach the Scots with a plan for peace. The two football teams would play for "The Paint Bucket" and settle the score each season on the field, rather than with acts of graffiti.

"It was destructive," Slocum told the Pioneer Press in 2014. "So I talked to some of the guys at Macalester and we decided to do something constructive with it."

The 50th anniversary of "The Paint Bucket" was celebrated on Saturday, as Hamline defeated Macalester 27-10 to retain the trophy for the second consecutive year. Even though Macalester no longer competes in the MIAC in football, the two have continued the rivalry with a nonconference game each season.

"Obviously, the proximity, both schools on Snelling Ave., it's a natural rival for us," said Hamline Head Football Coach Chad Rogosheske. "Hamline's first game in the 1800s was against Macalester, so it's a game with a ton of history. With the traveling trophy starting back in 1965 and such a neat story behind it, stopping the vandalism to play for 'The Paint Bucket,' it's an important aspect of the rivalry."

Rogosheske is a Hamline alum, and has fond memories of competing for the trophy as both a player, and now in his third season as his alma mater's head coach.

"'The Paint Bucket' was my last college game," he said. "It was when the MIAC had the Showcase in the Metrodome. That's my fondest memory of playing for it, it was the last time I put the cleats on. It was a hard-fought game and we were able to hold on to it. Both teams traditionally play hard in that game, and that's the type of game it was.

"[When I took over as head coach] it hadn't been on our campus in three years. Last year, our seniors had never seen it. Winning it last year was great, and holding on to it this year was an even bigger challenge."

Roughly a decade later, the MIAC would add another rivalry trophy that has seen its popularity skyrocket in recent years thanks to its unusual appearance. St. Olaf left the MIAC in 1952, only to return to the conference 23 years later. When the Oles rejoined the MIAC in the mid-70s, Concordia College wanted to do something special to welcome back their Norwegian brethren with their very own piece of Norse mythology, and that's how the legend of "The Troll" was born.

The idea was cultivated by 1961 Concordia alum Herb Morgenthaler and former Cobber alumni director Mark Halaas. Morgenthaler got "The Troll" from Jim Johnson's Scandinavian-themed store in the Twin Cities. Johnson's in-laws in Lillehammer introduced him to the work of John Proitz, who made trolls from natural items found in the mountains of Norway.

The trophy is certainly unlike any other of its kind, crafted out of wood, moss, pine cones and other natural items. Since its introduction more than 40 years ago, Concordia and St. Olaf have embraced its unique place in the history of their rivalry.

"It's certainly the ugliest traveling trophy in the country," Concordia Head Football Coach Terry Horan said with pride, "but it adds a little more excitement to the whole collegiate feel of traditions. It's something to play for. You take a little more pride in the series and the game."


"The Troll's" regional fame grew thanks to a detailed feature on its history in the Fargo Forum in 2013, and it rose to national prominence - or notoriety - later that week when it made an appearance on college football's flagship TV show, ESPN College GameDay. The show was broadcasting live from nearby Fargo, N.D., on the same day the Cobbers and Oles would square off in their annual rivalry game. Concordia Sports Information Director Jim Cella reached out to GameDay host Chris Fowler on Twitter, who invited him to bring it to the set, and Fowler and co-stars Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstriet and Desmond Howard gave "The Troll" it's one minute of fame.

"That was something, to have the whole country see this crazy trophy," Horan said, crediting Cella for getting it on the set. "I don't know if we make many claims, but our claim is Lee Corso picked the Cobbers to win that game. [Fowler] was holding up the Cobber doll Jim gave him and they were all laughing at this troll. I don't know how many Division III teams have that exposure, so it's pretty cool for us and our league."

Horan, a former Concordia star football player himself, said that in his playing days "The Troll" wasn't quite as celebrated as it is today. When he took over as head coach, they made a bigger deal out of the trophy and the rivalry, and the media attention has taken the Cobber-Ole rivalry to a whole new level.

"Our guys want to keep it," he said. "They take pictures of it after the game, they hustle to go get it if it wasn't in our hands the year before. They take a lot of pride in it. We also call that game 'The Lefse Bowl,' and our alumni office brings lefse out to the kids on the Thursday prior to the game. It's a unique rivalry in a lot of ways, and 'The Troll' is a big piece of it. It's a cool tradition and our kids love it."

Many of the MIAC's historic rivalries date back more than 100 years, and two of the conference's current trophies were introduced more recently to commemorate the 100th anniversaries of the rivalries. Carleton and Macalester dub their annual meeting as, "The Brain Bowl," which makes it fitting that the two now meet for, "The Book of Knowledge," every year. The trophy was introduced in 1998, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of their first meeting in 1898. The Knights recently re-claimed "The Book of Knowledge" on Sept. 5 with a 27-12 win over the Scots in the 2015 edition of "The Brain Bowl."

Saint John's students celebrate with "The Holy Grail."
(Photo courtesy of Sean Donohue, Saint John's University) 

The Saint John's-St. Thomas football rivalry is one of the fiercest in all of college football. Their annual showdown typically draws more than 10,000 fans, and the 16,421 fans that witnessed the 2010 game is a Division III single-game attendance record. The two teams first met in 1901, so to commemorate the centennial the two schools' student senates introduced "The Holy Grail" trophy, to be awarded to the winner each season.

The two will meet in Collegeville on Sept. 26, and the victor will take home a second-coming of "The Holy Grail." The original 2001 model disappeared in the mid-to-late 2000s, so a replacement was purchased and put into rotation. Saint John's has won each of the last two "Holy Grail" games, and both teams are currently ranked in the top 12 in the nation (SJU No. 8, UST No. 12) so the 2015 showdown is sure to carry even more significance than usual.  

"The Hammer," which is awarded to the winner of the annual game between Hamline and Augsburg College is the youngest of the MIAC football rivalry trophies, but one that also carries an interesting back story and links the two Twin Cities rivals. In 2004, Augsburg special teams coordinator Greg Flickinger would present a hammer to the player-of-the-week in his unit. A year later, he moved over to serve the same role at Hamline, and brought his hammer award with him. Both teams also employed new head coaches in 2005, so Augsburg Head Coach Frank Haege had the idea to use their shared award as a traveling trophy, and thus the Auggie-Piper battle for "The Hammer" began.

"I talked to Coach Haege before our game for 'The Hammer' [in 2014] and he said he wished he had [a rivalry trophy] every week because the guys get up for it," said Rogosheske. "They're motivated. You can tie it into your practice routine for a little extra motivation."

Now in its 11th season, "The Hammer" has spent most of its time on the Augsburg campus, as the Auggies hold an 8-2 edge in the series since 2005. However, Hamline scored a dramatic 28-27 overtime win in 2014 to bring the trophy back to St. Paul for just the second time.

"'The Hammer' has a lot more markings on the Augsburg side," Rogosheske said. "We've only had it on our campus twice since it was introduced. Our guys were really excited about winning it a year ago, and we understand it's going to be way more difficult to keep it than it was to get it the first time. These trophies going back and forth, that's where the challenge comes in."

The Margate Memorial Trophy  

The MIAC certainly has some unique rivalry trophies with interesting stories but, as the old song goes, "The cheese stands alone." In this instance, that cheese is a now-famous package of expired cheese that developed into a truly distinctive and exclusive rivalry trophy that very well may be the only one of its kind in its sport.

The Carleton and St. Thomas swimming and diving teams have squared off for "The Margate Memorial Trophy" every season dating back to 1995. The Carleton web site chronicles the trophy's unique history, and describes it as, "an emblem of the sportsmanship and friendship between the two schools that goes back many years."

In 1994, both Carleton and St. Thomas were among the teams that traveled to Collegeville, Minn., to compete at the Saint John's Invitational. The Knights arrived with bagels and cream cheese from the Carleton food service. However, according to the expiration date on the container, the cream cheese had expired three months earlier.

"The Tommies joined the Knights in a complex combination of mourning (over the expired cream cheese) and indignation that the Carleton swimmers and divers would be treated with such disrespect by their own food service," reads the Carleton web site. "This shared moment wove a fabric of friendship between the teams that can only be described as, 'well beyond diaphanous,' and led to the creation of the Margate Memorial Trophy, in memory of the expired three-pound brick of cream cheese."

The Margate Memorial Trophy - a wooden plaque featuring the original Margate cream cheese label and some commemorative engraving - carries some of the grandest pomp and circumstance in the MIAC. Each showdown begins with an extravagant pre-meet ceremony to present the trophy, which is conducted by the home team.

"The level of creativity in these presentation ceremonies needs to be seen to be believed, of course," wrote retired St. Thomas Head Swimming and Diving Coach Tom Hodgson, who was one of the co-founders of the trophy.

There is one significant distinction between The Margate Memorial Trophy and the rest of the MIAC's rivalry awards. Rather than rotate to the winner of each season's contest, the trophy alternates between the two teams evenly, according to "The Deed of Gift" engraved on the plaque.

"The Troll" on the ESPN College GameDay set in 2013.
(Photo courtesy of Jim Cella, Concordia Sports Information) 

"This Trophy is awarded in memory of the three-pound brick of cream cheese that expired on September 26, 1994," the deed reads. "To be presented before the start of the meet by the host team, and prominently displayed between contests at the site of the institution next scheduled to host the Carleton-St. Thomas meet. In the event that no dual meet is scheduled, the trophy is presented at the first invitational where both schools are present."

 When St. Thomas and Carleton meet during the 2015 season, it will mark the historic 20th presentation of The Margate Memorial Trophy. The two have met each season since its inception in 1995, with the exception of 1999 when the meet was cancelled due to an ice storm. According to Carleton's web site, "It is believed that this trophy is unique in all of Division III swimming and diving."

Whether it's in the pool, on the basketball court, or on the football field, the rivalry trophies throughout the MIAC certainly provide more than a prize for the winner. They serve as an important link between the conference's storied past, and it's exciting present.

"It really ties your current players into the some of the history of your program," Rogosheske said. "It's important that they understand some of the tradition, what's gone on before them, and feel a responsibility to carry on those traditions."

"Seeing the trophies, hearing about the history, makes it special even to the kids today," added Young.

The extra attention these prizes bring to the conference's intense rivalries, the added incentive for the players, the additional bragging rights for fans and alums and the way they ensure history and traditions continue benefit everyone involved each time one of these unique and hallowed trophies is on the line.

"It's good for college [athletics]," Horan said, "and good for our league.

Thank you to Augsburg, Carleton, Concordia, Hamline, Saint John's and St. Thomas sports information departments and the Fargo Forum and Pioneer Press for their contributions to this report.

| MIAC Rivalry Trophies | MIAC Feature Archive |

If you have any information on any additional MIAC rivalry trophies to be added to the archive, please Email Matt Higgins at: [email protected].