Michigan Football: Minnesota at Michigan -- History of the Little Brown Jug

Posted at 10:00am — 10/5/2013

Michigan Football: Minnesota at Michigan — History of the Little Brown Jug

According to the NCAA records book, there are 65 trophy games involving Division I-A teams.

They all owe their creation to the University of Michigan, the University of Minnesota, some misgivings about water and a 30-cent, putty-colored jug.

little brown jug3Michigan had won 28 straight games as it headed to Minneapolis for a battle with Minnesota in 1903. The Golden Gophers came into the game 10-0 on the season, with a crowd of 20,000 to root the home team on. Having doubts that Minnesota would provide pure water to the Michigan bench, head coach Fielding Yost ordered a manager, Tommy Roberts, to purchase a receptacle for drinking water which would be free from suspicion. Roberts purchased a five-gallon jug from a variety store in Minneapolis, and Michigan and Minnesota prepared to duel.

The Wolverines took a 6-0 lead in the first half, but the Gophers rallied to tie the game on a touchdown with two minutes remaining. When Minnesota blasted over the goal line, the fans, some sitting in trees and atop telephone poles, rushed the field in excitement. The pandemonium that ensued led to the game being called with time still left on the clock.

In their haste to leave and catch the train back to Chicago, the Michigan players dressed quickly and departed the stadium, leaving the jug behind. Minnesota equipment manager Oscar Munson found the jug the following morning and brought it to Director of Athletics L.J. Cooke. In remembrance of the exceptional tie, they decided to hold on to the jug and adorned it by painting, “Michigan Jug – Captured by Oscar, October 31, 1903,” and the score “Minnesota 6, Michigan 6” on the side of the jug.

little brown jugWhen Yost sent a letter requesting the return of the jug, Cooke wrote back, “If you want it, you’ll have to come up and win it.” Due to the brutality of the 1903 game, the two teams did not meet again until 1909, when Michigan did win the jug, 15-6. The Wolverines defended the jug in Ann Arbor in 1910, but due to Michigan’s withdrawal from the Big Ten, the jug was not played for again until 1919.

The trophy disappeared from the trophy case of the Michigan Athletic Administration building in 1930 and was not found until 1934. Before the actual jug was found behind a clump of bushes by a gas station attendant in Ann Arbor, a replica of the prize was displayed in Michigan’s trophy case.

The authenticity of the original was confirmed by a flaw that could not be duplicated. Since then, the trophy has been carefully safeguarded.

Dating back to 1909, the battle for the Little Brown Jug is the oldest trophy game in Division I FBS. Sixteen years passed before the next trophy game was created. In 1925, the Illibuck (Illinois- Ohio State), the Old Oaken Bucket (Indiana-Purdue) and the Beer Barrel (Kentucky-Tennessee) trophies were first played for, the last of which was created, “to rival Michigan’s Brown Jug.”

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Written by GBMWolverine Staff

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