Some of these trophies have fairly dull names. For instance, Louisville claimed the Governor's Cup with a 27-13 win against Kentucky September 14, one of the first trophy games to be played this year.
But some have trophies with names that are hard to forget.
Brigham Young and Utah State play for the Old Wagon Wheel. Notre Dame and Southern California introduced the Jeweled Shillelagh (What the heck is a Shillelagh?) in 1952 to commemorate an already decades-old rivalry. And Michigan and Minnesota fight over perhaps college football's most uninspiring trophy, the Little Brown Jug, year after year.
The Bayou Bucket, the Beehive Boot, the Golden Egg, the Old Brass Spittoon, Paul Bunyan's Ax—there is no end to the creativity behind some of these prized trophies.
Despite these absurd-sounding trophy names, their significance should not be understated. They represent the visceral, very real reward for some of college football's most heated rivalry games. Teams tear each other apart for the honor to proudly display these awards on their respective campuses until next year's game rolls around, and the battle begins again.
Take Duke's rivalry game against North Carolina for instance. The Blue Devils and Tar Heels have played for the Victory Bell since 1948, after a cheerleader from each school teamed up to design the trophy and acquired the bell from an old railroad train.
Despite the trophy's relatively simple design—just an old bell on a small platform—its importance as a symbol of pride is immense. When Duke upset North Carolina 33-30 in Durham last year, Blue Devil players ran to the Victory Bell and joyously took turns ringing it in front of fans—including me—who stormed the field. Duke had not beaten the Tar Heels and rung the Victory Bell since 2003.
With the importance of the Victory Bell and other rivalry trophies in mind, I wonder if the Blue Devils ever thought about establishing any of these other trophy games:
The Battle for the Bull
Although Duke and North Carolina Central, both located in Durham, played this year for just the third time ever, there is something inherently rivalrous about two teams from the same city playing against each other. It doesn't matter that the Eagles are in the FCS, essentially the minor leagues of college football. Crosstown rivals deserve a trophy to fight over, and I have just the thing—a bronze bull.
After all, Durham is the "Bull City." Prior to the Duke-North Carolina Central matchups in 2012 and 2013, cross country runners from both schools began their race, the "Bull City Classic," in Wallace Wade Stadium. The Durham Bulls, the AAA affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, play underneath the watchful eye of a giant bull whose eyes turn red when someone hits a home run. To simplify, bulls are a big deal in Durham.
A large bronze bull statue sits in the middle of downtown. A smaller version of this statue would serve perfectly as the trophy for the Blue Devils' rivalry game with the Eagles.
The Golden Calculator
Duke has played Georgia Tech 81 times since 1933, when the teams first met. The Blue Devils joined the ACC under its original charter in 1953, and the Yellow Jackets joined in 1978, so the two programs have spent more than three decades playing in the same conference. There is plenty of history here to warrant a rivalry trophy.
Since Duke and Georgia Tech are the premier engineering schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference, a trophy game could also draw on the academic rivalry between these two schools. What better award for the winner of the rivalry game than the Golden Calculator? Whichever school wins the game would get to etch the name of its engineering school's valedictorian on the back of the trophy so that it could be admired for years to come.
The Fight for I-40
North Carolina State, located in Raleigh, lies just 25 miles away from Durham down Interstate-40. Like Duke and Georgia Tech, the Blue Devils and Wolfpack have also met 81 times—only North Carolina and Wake Forest have faced off against Duke more. Additionally, Durham is almost as close to the North Carolina State campus as it is to Chapel Hill, so a trophy game between the Blue Devils and the Wolfpack makes sense.
Since I-40 is the main link between the two schools, to the winner of the rivalry game would go the rights to naming a portion of the interstate until the teams' next meeting. From big corporations to boy scout troops, anyone can 'adopt a highway' and have it named after them, so it shouldn't be hard for two universities as large as Duke and North Carolina State to secure similar privileges.
While the reward isn't a traditional trophy, the principle of bragging rights is the same. And if the Blue Devils win their November 9 matchup with the Wolfpack, the tradition can start this year. North Carolina State fans heading to Durham will have to drive the 'Coach Cut Wolfpack Hunting Zone' stretch of I-40, at least until the rivalry game is renewed.