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The Football Trophy No One Wants – 7 True Tales of Michigan’s Paul Bunyan Trophy

Michigan v Michigan State
Photo: Leon Halip, Getty Images

When the Wolverines and Spartans meet on the football field the game is about more than pride- the winner receives the Paul Bunyan trophy; the problem is, nobody really likes it.

It’s officially called the “Paul Bunyan – Governor of Michigan Trophy” and it goes to the winner of the annual football match-up between the Michigan Wolverines and the Michigan State University Spartans– a century-old rivalry that dates back to 1898.

Seven True Tales About the Paul Bunyan Trophy:

  1. The award is nine feet tall; it is a 4 foot carving of legendary lumberjack Paul Bunyan on a 5 foot wooden base. Paul Bunyan was chosen as a symbol of Michigan’s history in the lumber industry.
  2. Carved to commemorate MSU joining the Big Ten Conference, the statue was first presented in 1953 by Michigan governor G. Mennen Williams.
  3. University of Michigan coach Fritz Crisler said he wouldn’t accept the award if his team won the 1953 contest. (It didn’t matter- MSU was victorious 14-6)
  4. When his Wolverines did win the following year, Coach Crisler ignored the trophy as the lumberjack was abandoned on the field for a half an hour before it was relegated to an equipment closet in the Michigan locker room.
  5. University of Michigan Coach Lloyd Carr called it “the ugliest trophy in college football.”
  6. Although MSU was heavily favored, the teams tied in 1958. The embarrassed Spartans did not want the reward, but the Wolverines wouldn’t take it either. State relented and kept it in East Lansing.
  7. Since its creation in 1953, the Paul Bunyan has gone to the University of Michigan 35 times, Michigan State 26.

Although at first nobody seemed to care about the Paul Bunyan – The Governor of Michigan Trophy, it is now coveted as a part of the hard-earned spoils that go to the victory of the annual Michigan vs Michigan State football rivalry game.

Next Up: There are 2 'Spartan' and 'Wolverine' Intersections in Michigan

Bonus Video: Ropes Course and Ziplining at the Adventure Park At West Bloomfield

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