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Big Ten Countdown: 93 - The Dangers of Forcing a Rivalry

Yesterday's story discussed how Nebraska and Penn State can build a rivalry and play for an annual trophy.  Other stories on this site have also talked about an Iowa-Nebraska prize.  In 19(93), Penn State athletics started play in the Big Ten Conference.  To commemorate this historic event, two trophies were crafted as annual rivalry trophies.  One was the Governor's Victory Bell (Penn State - Minnesota) and the other was the Land Grant Trophy (Penn State - Michigan State). 

Background info on the Victory Bell is pretty sparseDoing some research, there seems to be a very neutral to unfavorable opinion of the bell.  The facebook page shows zero people like it.  There are eight trophy games in NCAA football that are titled (in some form or another) "Victory Bell".  It's almost like the governor's of the two states decided at the last minute to make a trophy for Penn State's first game. 

"Hey it's your first Big Ten game!  You have nothing in common and no ties to Minnesota but guess what!  You get to play for um, let's see. *Looks around* A bell!  Yes we will call it a 'Victory' Bell!"

"Sir, that name is already taken and there are a fair amount of rivalries that already play for a Victory Bell," Minion Number One says.

"Well then, let's call it thee, umm Governor's Victory Bell!  Yes, that will do nicely!  Because it's more that just a regular victory bell it will be better than all the others!  It has nothing to do with me being a governor.  Nothing at all!  Congratulations Penn State and welcome to the Big Ten!"

Penn State - Minnesota Governor's Victory bell. Doug Pensinger/Getty Images


I'm sure this wasn't how it all went down, but it sure seems like it.  Don't get me wrong.  It's not a terrible trophy and I'm sure there's a few people that love it, but it just seems that it was just thrown together without any thought.  If you are going to play for it for 100 years, take some time to be creative and come up with something unique.

This leads us to the Land Grant Trophy.  At least some thought was put into it's design.  Someone realized that the two schools were the first two land grant universities in the country so they put 1 and 1 together.  That's about where the creative aspect ended.  You can read all about the story of designing the trophy here. It's an epic tale full of loss, revenge, conspiracy, seduction and  honor.  But, like the Governor's Victory Bell, it still was missing that creative uniqueness that great trophies have. 

Unlike the Victory Bell, though, fans tend to have a strong opinion of this trophy and it's usually negative, or very negative.  Remember when Colorado was designated our rival at the end of the year?  Well, Michigan State was given that distinction for Penn State (or visa versa depending on your perspective).  It was another, "Uh, okaaaay," moment and people fought back.  About the only thing the two schools had in common was the Land Grant distinction.  Imagine playing Purdue as our annual regular season finale.  I'm sure it would be a blood feud just as it is with Iowa-Purdue now.  As great of a school as they are, we have no history with Purdue, similar to the Michigan State-PSU marriage.

Forcing rivalries can be bad.  Some might even argue that Nebraska-Iowa and Nebraska-Penn State are being forced. Let them develop over time.  That is the only way they become strong.  Time does create rivalries, but they also need a link.  We all have read about the Purdue-Iowa rivalry.  It is one of the best in the nation because they have played each other over 80 times and they are linked together by their hatred of the state of Illinois.  That's a serious bond there.  Oklahoma and Nebraska were linked because of conference championships.  Colorado and Nebraska were linked because Colorado hated Nebraska.  It was a one-way road.  It didn't work.

Though people seem to hate the forced rivalries, when they go away, some realize what they have and lost.  Now that it isn't an annual series, I think some people may miss the Land Grant game.  Some might even say that people will miss the Colorado-Nebraska game, but that seems silly to me.  Right?  Are you worried about forced rivalries in the Big Ten with Nebraska?

Tomorrow: Nebraska's Victory Bell