The original Paul Bunyan Axe — given annually to the winner of the football game between Wisconsin and Minnesota — is being donated to the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., the two schools announced Tuesday.
Wisconsin and Minnesota have played 113 times, making it the most-played rivalry in Division IA football. The axe, which legend says was wielded by lumberjack Paul Bunyan, was created in 1948 by the Wisconsin letterwinners’s organization (the National W Club). Every year since then, the winner of the annual football game between the two schools kept the axe for display on its campus. The scores of every matchup are painted on the axe’s handle.
The 56-year-old trophy was becoming somewhat unstable because of the way it was handled during celebrations by the winning school. Also, the axe handle was running out of room for future scores, so a new axe was created by UW’s W Club in 2000.
Athletic Directors Pat Richter and Joel Maturi, of UW and Minnesota, respectively, agreed that the institutions would present the original axe and additional series’ artifacts to the College Football Hall of Fame to celebrate the series.
“This rivalry between bordering schools is one of the neatest traditions in college football,” Richter said. “It certainly seemed appropriate to help protect the future of the trophy by creating more space for future scores and making it more durable. We’re pleased to join with Minnesota in giving this historic football symbol to the hall.”
Maturi’s Golden Gophers earned possession of the fabled trophy this season after Minnesota defeated Wisconsin, 37-34, in Minneapolis Nov. 8.
“The axe has come to represent the importance of the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry,” Maturi said. “We are very pleased to be able to showcase both the axe and the history of this rivalry at the College Football Hall of Fame, while still providing both institutions with a new symbol for the future.”
Both schools will also send a team helmet to the College Football Hall of Fame, which will be included in the exhibit. And the Badgers have a football that was used in the 1918 game between Wisconsin and Minnesota, which will be donated as well — a game the Gophers won 6-0.
Minnesota leads the all-time series 59-46-8. The schools have met every year since their 17-17 tie in 1907.
–compiled from staff reports