Big Ten Countdown: 25 - The Old Oaken Bucket

Old Oaken Bucket in 1925. Courtesy of Indiana University Archives.

Indiana and Purdue, two teams that Nebraska will not see in the regular season the next couple years, are in-state rivals. Thought Purdue holds a commanding lead in the series, this game means a lot to each school. So in 1925, it was decided that the two schools would play for a football trophy. A bucket was chosen as the award. This bucket would have a chain on it. After each game, a new link would be added. A "P" if Purdue won and an "I" if Indiana won. Currently, there are 56 "P" links and 27 "I" links. There are also 3 "I-P" links representing three ties, Including the inaugural game in 1925 that ended in a 0-0 tie.

There are some interesting stories about the origin of the bucket.

The standard and most widely quoted historical accounts on the origins of the Bucket claim it was taken from a farm between Kent and Hanover, Indiana that was owned by a family named Bruner. The region had been settled by the Bruner family in the 1840s, and so the Bucket was assumed to be over 150 years old.

However, other evidence suggests that this may not be the real story. In a letter written in 1954 Fritz Ernst, one of the individuals charged with the task of selecting the bucket, wrote the following account: "In order to add a little interest to the bucket we said that the bucket was used on the old Bruner farm…It happened that Mrs. Bruner was my grandmother, and in order to make the above statements true, I took the bucket down to the old Bruner farm, put it down into the well a couple of times and brought up some water from the well."

A 1981 article in the Indianapolis Star Magazine suggests another origin for the Bucket. In this article H. Raymond Floyd, an employee of American Steel Foundries in Illinois, claims that the bucket was brought to him for restoration, and his recollection was that the bucket was found in Illinois.

Another story on the early history of the Bucket was reported in the Chicago Tribune. According to this account, the Bucket was used by Confederate General John Hunt Morgan during his raids into Indiana and Ohio in July 1863. However, IU History Professor James Madison states that this story is likely untrue, and is probably "an attempt to make the Bucket more precious by connecting it to a historical event that has some sort of mystique."

One thing that I find interesting is that both Illibuck and the Old Oaken Bucket claim to be the second oldest trophy in the Big Ten. They both started in 1925. The first "Bucket" and "Illibuck" games were both played on November 21, 1925. I could not find a time for kickoff of those games...

This game is important to the state of Indiana, and though the outcome will probably not affect Nebraska too much, it's important to know about it. Indiana has been a historically bad team, but Kevin Wilson should (maybe?) make some noise in Bloomington. Purdue tends to be a middle of the pack Big Ten team and occasionally competes for titles. If Ohio State takes a step back, don't be surprised to see Purdue vie for the top half of the Leaders division, assuming they can stay healthy.

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