Slab of bacon

Minnesota–Wisconsin football rivalry
Teams Minnesota Golden Gophers
Wisconsin Badgers
First Meeting 1890
Trophy Originated 1948
All-Time Series Minnesota leads, 58–56–8
Trophy Series Wisconsin leads, 38–24–3
Current Holder Wisconsin
Previous Trophy Slab of Bacon

The Minnesota–Wisconsin football rivalry is an American college football rivalry between the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers and the University of Wisconsin Badgers. The longest-played rivalry in what is now the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, it has been contested almost every year since 1890. The winner of this matchup between Big 10 Conference rivals receives an unusual traveling trophy, "Paul Bunyan's Axe", a tradition introduced in 1948. Minnesota leads the series 58–56–8.


The rivalry was first played in 1890 on Wisconsin's campus in Madison, resulting in a 63-0 Minnesota victory. The teams continued to meet annually, and the game became a conference rivalry with the creation of the Big 10 Conference in 1896. As of 2012, Minnesota leads the series 58–56–8.[1][2]


Slab of Bacon

The rivalry's first trophy was the "Slab of Bacon", in use from 1930 to 1943. Created by R. B. Fouch of Minneapolis, it is a piece of black walnut wood with a football at the center bearing a letter that becomes "M" or "W" depending on which way the trophy is hung. The word "BACON" is carved at both ends, implying that the winner has "brought home the bacon." The trophy's tenure ended when Minnesota's 1943 victory at Wisconsin led to the fans rushing the field. Wisconsin student Peg Watrous was to bring the trophy to a Minnesota representative after the game, but could not find her in the commotion, and subsequently lost track of the "bacon".[3][4] Reportedly, the trophy was sent to Minnesota's locker room, but coach George Hauser refused it, suggesting such traditions be held off until after World War II.[5] It was subsequently lost; a new trophy, "Paul Bunyan's Axe", was introduced in 1948.[5]

The trophy was lost for over 50 years. In 1992, Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez joked that "we took home the bacon, and kept it."[6] In 1994, Wisconsin intern Will Roleson found it in an old storage closet at Camp Randall Stadium. It had evidently been maintained for some time, as game scores from 1930 through 1970 were painted on the back. The Slab of Bacon is now displayed at the Camp Randall Stadium football offices.[3]

Paul Bunyan's Axe

The Paul Bunyan Axe was created by the Wisconsin letterwinners' organization (the National W Club) and would be instituted as the trophy in the series in 1948. The scores of each game are recorded on the axe's handle, which is 6 feet long. The original axe was retired after the 2003 game and a new axe was created for the 2004 game.[1] When the game ends, if the team holding the trophy wins, they run to their own sideline, take the axe and carry it around the field. If the team not holding the trophy wins, they are allowed to run to their opponents' sideline and "steal" the axe away. Usually, after the winning team claims the axe, it is custom for the team to carry the axe to one of the goal posts and "chop" it down with the axe.

For many years, it was traditionally the final game of the regular season for both schools. It will resume being a season finale in 2014 with the Big Ten's new divisional alignment and schedule for the final weekend of conference play.

Game results

Series records from the College Football Data Warehouse:[7]

See also

  • Other Wisconsin traveling trophies:
    • Heartland Trophy (with Iowa)
  • Other Minnesota traveling trophies:
  • Other long-running Division I FBS rivalries:
    • Most-played rivalries in NCAA Division I FBS


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