Rivalry trophies are a storied tradition of college football -- even as the concept has been somewhat diluted in recent years by an epidemic of bogus rivalry trophies for rivalries that simply do no exist outside of a public relations department -- and the Minnesota Golden Gophers are no stranger to hoisting hardware after a hard-fought win over one of their hated border rivals.
Speaking of rivalry trophies for non-existent rivalries...
But I'm not here to talk about the Little Brown Jug, Paul Bunyan's Axe, Floyd of Rosedale, or that court-ordered Governor's Victory Bell that the Gophers share custody of with the Penn State Nittany Lions.
No, I'm here to talk about the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy, as the Gophers prepare for a matchup with the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.
Before he was fired for being a consistent winner prone to bursts of homicidal rage on the sideline, Bo Pelini was the head coach at Nebraska, but it was his infamous Twitter counterpart, @FauxPelini, who played a central role in the development of the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy. It all started with a friendly wager from Minnesota's very own Goldy Gopher...
Hey @FauxPelini, how about a friendly wager for this weekend's game? Team that gets the most points gets a conference win? Seem fair?— Goldy Gopher (@GoldytheGopher) November 20, 2014
@GoldytheGopher OK how about if we win you give me $5, if you win I get to smash a wooden chair over your back— Fake Bo Pelini (@FauxPelini) November 20, 2014
.@FauxPelini just as long as we can turn that $5 or bits of broken chair into a trophy for next year's game— Goldy Gopher (@GoldytheGopher) November 20, 2014
In the hands of a lesser mascot, it would've ended there as a brief but humorous exchange made possible by the bizarre nature of social media. But Goldy Gopher is a resilient sort of rodent, and the situation escalated from there...
The Internet proceeded to explode like Bo Pelini after a pass interference penalty, but with much less anger and more enthusiasm. Random fans from all across Twitter chimed in to voice their overwhelming approval.
Correct me if I'm wrong (I'd rather you didn't), but Twitter users don't throw out words like "best," "perfect," and "greatest" on a whim, so it became clear via the power of social media that the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy was a cultural milestone that could not be ignored. So of course it made the trip to Lincoln.
The Gophers prevailed over the Cornhuskers 28-24 that Saturday, and Minnesota's All-Big Ten punter, field goal holder, and perennial Heisman candidate Peter Mortell was seen hoisting the trophy after the game.
And the legend was born.
In the weeks following the loss to Minnesota, Nebraska fired Pelini. Their athletic director made no mention of the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy when addressing the media after the announcement, but one can assume it was a factor in his decision. So can the trophy survive with Pelini no longer on the sideline for the Cornhuskers? I'll let his successor, Mike Riley, take it from here.
And there you have it.