College football has a unique tradition of playing rivalry games with unique trophies awarded to the victors. Michigan State and Indiana play each other for the right to hold the Old Brass Spittoon, Wisconsin and Minnesota play for Paul Bunyan’s Axe and Iowa and Minnesota duke it out over Floyd of Rosedale. The Golden Gophers have a recently acquired their third, albeit unofficial, trophy rivalry game with the Nebraska Huskers, as the two teams play for the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy.
Prior to a 2014 matchup between the two teams, Minnesota mascot @GoldyGopher and Bo Pelini parody account @FauxPelini had a Twitter conversation that floated the idea of a new trophy. Minnesota fans managed to build the trophy prior to the game, which the Gophers won 28-24. The trophy stayed in the Twin Cities until the teams’ next meeting in 2016.
The following year, Nebraska managed to win the trophy back and the Huskers celebrated accordingly. Even Mike Riley got to hold the coveted prize. As soon as the trophy came about, it vanished without a trace. Nebraska won the game, but there was no trophy to be found.
With fans of both schools left in the dark, users on the Nebraska subreddit took it into their own hands to make a new trophy. On Aug. 22, Michael Andrews, a Husker fan and moderator of the subreddit, posted a thread that exploded in popularity. Almost immediately, Andrews began to coordinate efforts with David Moore and Luke Petersen, who physically built the chair at the Nebraska Innovation Studio.
“I had planned on building it myself over a weekend I had free,” Andrews said. “I posted on Reddit asking about help with it, and David and Luke already had designs written up.”
To Petersen, building the chair was not only a chance to resurrect a beloved tradition, but also to show off his skill.
“I put my months of woodworking expertise to the test,” Petersen said. “And despite my lack of any real talent, we ended up with a passable yet beautiful reconstruction of the original trophy, slightly more shiny and cleaned up. A trophy all fans could be proud of for generations to come.”
Senior Jordon Rapp, a member of the Cornhusker Marching Band, also played an important role in promoting the trophy online.
“My role has been kind of muddy,” Rapp said. “It’s mostly been media outreach, I was in charge of reaching out to pretty much all the media sites here in Lincoln. I did a couple of national media sites, 24/7 and Rivals. Outside of that, it’s been logistical work here in Lincoln.”
As efforts increased to get the chair ready for action, the Big Ten Conference Twitter account and media members such as Sean Callahan promoted the chair, sending Andrews into a frenzy to finish the trophy’s website before officially unveiling the trophy on Sept. 18.
The team worked to give the trophy lasting power this time around, and Joe Bernard, a Reddit user on the Minnesota end suggested sponsoring charities. A fundraiser was started, with proceeds going to the Team Jack Foundation and University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital. To date, over $3,000 has been raised to support the two charities.
For Andrews, the charity aspect of the trophy is what makes it so special.
“I think it embodies what we represent, as a whole, from both programs,” Andrews said. “We're all passionate about our football, but some things transcend that, and these causes are definitely in that category.”
The responses from the Nebraska and Minnesota communities were powerful, but positive reinforcement came flying in from all corners of the world and on multiple different platforms.
“It's always been a popular thing on Reddit,” Andrews said. “But the response we got even outside of that was amazing.”
The organically made $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy is officially back and ready for action, thanks to the efforts of multiple Nebraskans and Minnesotans working as a team. On Nov. 11, the two teams will battle for the coveted trophy once more, a great sight to see for Husker fans such as Petersen.
“The chair encapsulates the true spirit of grassroots fandom, demonstrates congenial rebellion against the corporate feel of other trophies, and is proof of what dedicated people can accomplish,” Petersen said.