It’s the offseason, which means it’s time to rank everything in sight.
We all take great pride in the symbols and people that represent our universities in the pubic eye. We associate those things with some of our best memories or favorite past times. But if there’s one thing we love as fans, it’s to have bragging rights.
Nothing feels better than telling people from your school’s rival school that you’re better and have the scoreboard to prove it. About the only thing to make it better? A trophy that you can point to.
That’s what we’re here to rank today. To be eligible a trophy game must 1) be played annually and 2) have a physical, traveling trophy. (Sorry, Redbird Rivalry. You don’t count right now.) These trophies will largely be rated by outward appearance, though points will also be rewarded for competitiveness.
Let’s get right down to it, starting from worst to first.
#6: Anniversary Award: Kent State vs. Bowling Green
Apparently, there’s a traveling trophy applied to this game and there has been since 1985, which marked the 75th anniversary of each school’s establishment.
It’s hard to hold bragging rights over the other school when you don’t even know what the trophy looks like. Go ahead, try to look it up. It’s nowhere to be found on the Internet.
The game also hasn’t been that competitive since it was first established. Out of the 31 meetings since 1985, Bowling Green has won 24 of the games. The overall series isn’t much better: Bowling Green leads all time 59-19-6.
For those reasons alone, that makes the Anniversary Award a good anchor on this list.
#5: Bronze Stalk: Northern Illinois vs. Ball State
Well, the Bronze Stalk Trophy is certainly.... something, that’s for sure.
If there’s one thing that Illinois and Indiana share, it’s a love for corn and bland designs, which this trophy certainly shows off in full fashion. It’s also an awkward trophy to lift up; it’s pretty bottom heavy and I can’t imagine the bronze stalks up there help with keeping it upright very well when held in the hands of football players, especially in a high wind.
The game itself has also been extremely lopsided since the trophy itself was introduced in 2008. That year, Ball State took the trophy home over NIU in dominant fashion as one of the best mid-major teams in the land. Since then, the trophy has made its home in DeKalb for the last eight years. Yikes.
The overall series is slightly more competitive, with NIU leading the overall series 22-20-2 since 1941.
#4: Michigan MAC trophy: Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan
Our first multi-sport trophy on the list and one of the nation’s two permanent three-team rivalry trophies, the Michigan MAC Trophy has a lot of flaws associated with it, the least of which is having the least original name possible.
The awarding of the basketball trophy is pretty hard to follow; one year, CMU won the trophy despite going 0-4 against WMU and EMU on a little-known “retention” loophole. The football one is only slightly easier to follow, as it’s dependent on how each team plays against the other.
The trophy design itself is kind of forgettable, but not necessarily bad. The glass lower peninsula design with the geographically placed logos is apropos for the spirit of the rivalry.
The trophy has actually been rather competitive. Each Michigan MAC school has won the award four times in football, while WMU holds the edge in basketball, winning it seven times. CMU has it four times, while EMU won it for the first time this past season.
#3: Battle of I-75: Toledo and Bowling Green
This trophy is still relatively new, even if the rivalry is one of the oldest in the Mid-American Conference. This is actually the third such iteration of this rivalry trophy.
From 1948-1969, the two teams would smoke from a six-foot long peace pipe at halftime and the winner would keep the pipe until the next season. The trophy was stolen and never seen again.
In 1980, a scaled-down peace pipe was brought back by Frank Kralik, a former Rocket footballer, who placed it on top of a standard trophy. That trophy was recognized until 2010, when it was retired by both schools due to conversations with local Native American tribes.
The current trophy started to be awarded in 2011, though the first holder did not get to lift it up until 2012, due to an unforeseen error with the trophy designer. It’s a fairly decent bronze trophy, with a nod to the geographic significance of Interstate 75, which passes through both universities. It also screams “classic rivalry trophy” and was designed by the same person who created the Biletnikoff Trophy.
The rivalry itself since the introduction of the current award has been pretty one-sided; Toledo owns the advantage 6-0 over BGSU. Over the total series between the two teams, BGSU owns the overall lead since 1949 with 35-31-1.
#2: The Victory Cannon: Central Michigan vs. Western Michigan
The official name for this trophy is the CMU-WMU Rivalry Trophy, but who cares because THERE’S A GIANT GOLDEN CANON ON TOP OF THAT THING!
The cannon has only been a part of this storied rivalry since 2008, but fans have quickly embraced it as a part of the series. Cannons have a storied tradition on both campuses and the base of the trophy is painted half maroon, half brown. The trophy also lists the wins of both schools on their respective sides. It;s a beautiful looking trophy, and with the fact that it was introduced near the 100th anniversary of the rivalry, that lends it some mystique.
WMU just recently took the edge in the overall series for the trophy, leading CMU 5-4 since 2008, but holds the overall record 48-37-2 since 1907. These two schools legitimately hate each other to the point where fellow MAC fans circle the date on their calendars to watch and see what happens.
#1: The Wagon Wheel: Akron vs. Kent State
There’s no competition for which rivalry trophy is the best in the MAC: the Wagon Wheel, which is fought for annual between Akron and Kent State on the final game of the season.
Though the formal Wagon Wheel is awarded during the football game, a less formal version of the Wagon Wheel was introduced in 2011 for 14 other sports to make this trophy a year-round fight between the two schools. You have to admit that’s pretty amazing.
The Wagon Wheel is fairly simple; it’s a literal wagon wheel painted in both school’s colors. Per legend, it’s a wheel discovered on the campus of Kent State University that allegedly came off of John Butchel’s carriage when he was scouting locations for what would become the University of Akron.
The series and its famous trophy has been largely continuous with a few interruptions since 1946, rooting back in the old Ohio Athletic Conference. Akron leads the Wagon Wheel rivalry 22-23-1 and the overall series 33-21-2.
Kent State holds the edge in the 14-sport Wagon Wheel Challenge 4-1 since 20122.