One of my favorite games of the season is back after a brief two season hiatus. Which, by the way, was the first break in the series history since 1999. Yup! The Michigan v. Minnesota contest will continue this year with both squads fighting for a piece of the pot. This pot, or Little Brown Jug, has ancient college football roots. Heck, we even have a bar named after it in Ann Arbor: The Brown Jug! Which, by the way, is a great place to have a beer in honor of this game. If I was still living in Ann Arbor, I would have a beer here before every Michigan/ Minnesota game. I wouldn’t even care if that meant I was drinking before a noon start time, like today’s game.
The Little Brown Jug has been fought over by the Wolverines and Golden Gophers since the first time these teams played for the coveted trophy way back on Halloween in 1903. It is said that it is one of the oldest rivalry trophies in college football history. The legend starts in the Days when Michigan Man , Fielding H. Yost , coached the team. The Wolverines were amidst a 28 game win steak, and were on the road against The Other Great Lake State. Minnesota had a fabled “point a minute offense” that year, and were looking to break our winning streak. The story continues with Yost, weary of Minnesota tapping the water supply, had a student manager by the name of Thomas Roberts purchase a five gallon jug of water for the team. Michigan pretty much pounded the “fabled” Minnesota offense all game shutting them down until late in the second half. Michigan was up 6-0, when Minnesota finally scored. Pandemonium struck the Minnesota fans, they stormed the field, the game was called with around 2 minutes left to play. Michigan left the field, went back to the locker room, got on the bus and went back home to A2. The one thing they left in the locker room? You guessed it!1 The Little Brown Jug. Minnesota eventually found the jug, painted it brown and wrote Michigan 6, Minnestoa 6 on it. Later, Yost wanted it back, but Minnesota Athletic Director, L.J. Cooke, wrote back “We have your little brown jug; if you want it, you’ll have to win it.” This led to the creation of this storied rivalry, which has had many matchups throughout the years, which have helped forge the season destiny of these two teams.
Michigan, of course, has won the contest more times than Minnesota. We ended up getting the jug back on our next game with the Golden Gophers. They had it for six years, though, because the next time we ended up facing them was 1909. The jug was eventually repainted with our “M” on half and the Minnesota “M” on the other half. Each game score is recoded on the jug and added to the archives. The jug passes hands to the winner of the game! It’s that simple and makes for a great rivalry between two states of the Great Lakes, both conference rivals!
The overall record of the Wolverines for the Little Brown Jug is 66-22-3. I look forward to this friendly rivalry any time we play them. I get a sad sense that something in our season is missing, if we don’t play Minnesota. Could you imagine a 12-0 season with a National Championship without all of our benchmark wins against Michigan State, Ohio State, Notre Dame, and not collecting our Little Brown Jug, too?
Go Blue! And, keep that Little Brown Jug safe at home in Ann Arbor!