The states of Minnesota and Iowa battle it out every year in college football, when their teams face each other in one of the most emotional rivalries in the country. The winner of the game earns the right to keep the bronze statue of a pig called “Floyd of Rosedale.”
The year was 1935, and emotions were running hot heading into the Minnesota-Iowa game. Bernie Bierman’s Gophers were 5-0, and Ossie Solem’s Hawkeyes were 4-0-1. Iowa had recently been reinstated to eligibility following a suspension for slush-fund violations, a suspension that had been ardently supported by a Minnesota representative. To make matters worse, Iowa fans still remembered the contest from the year before, when Minnesota players had roughed up Hawkeye star Ozzie Simmons so badly that he had to leave the game because of injuries.
The game in 1935 was at Iowa, and the host state had not forgotten either of the incidents. Iowa Governor Clyde Herring incited the fans and joined in the bitter feelings toward the state to the north and its football squad by saying, “If the officials stand for any rough tactics like Minnesota used last year, I’m sure the crowd won’t.”
Greatly alarmed, Minnesota’s Governor Floyd Olson tried to cool the hot heads of fans on both sides of the border with his telegrammed answer to Herring. “Minnesota folks are excited over your statement about Iowa crowds lynching the Minnesota football team. I have assured them you are law abiding gentlemen and are only trying to get our goat...I will bet you a Minnesota prize hog against an Iowa prize hog that Minnesota wins.”
The diplomatic tactic eased the tension, and the game was a hard-fought, but cleanly played, 13-6 Minnesota victory. More importantly, no mob of angry fans got involved in any postgame, extracurricular activity. The Golden Gophers brought home “Floyd of Rosedale,” an award-winning prize pig which had been donated by Allen Loomis, the owner of Rosedale Farms near Fort Dodge, Iowa, and named after the Minnesota governor.
A few days later, Governor Herring collected Floyd and personally walked him into Governor Olson’s carpeted office. About the same time, news surfaced that an Iowa fan had sworn out a warrant charging Herring with gambling. Olson good-naturedly offered asylum, but Herring declined. “I might have to go home and write out a pardon for myself,” Herring joked.
Governor Olson later offered Floyd up as the grand prize in a state-wide essay-writing contest, which was won by 14-year old Robert Jones. Jones later sold the hog to the U of M. A year later, the University sold Floyd to J.B. Gjerdrum, a breeder who lived near Mabel, Minn., on the Iowa-Minnesota border, for “about $50” according to Gjerdrum. Sadly, in a death most unbefitting a figure of such stature, Floyd passed on to that great pigpen in the sky. As Gjerdrum noted, “We had him about a year. There was hog cholera around...One day he just leaned up against a straw pile and died.”
The spirit of good sportsmanship embodied by Floyd.
The spirit of good sportsmanship embodied by Floyd lives on in the form of a 15 1/2-inch high, 21-inch long bronze statue of the prize hog. The sculpture was commissioned by Governor Olson and created by Charles Brioschi, a St. Paul artist.
Every year, since 1935, these two border-state rivals have fought for the right to pen the bronze pig in their own trophy case. During that span, Minnesota has won Floyd 40 times, Iowa has won 34, and there have been two ties. From 1983 to 2000, Minnesota and Iowa saved each other for the most important and emotional season finale slot. Every college football season, Minnesota and Iowa fight for “Floyd of Rosedale,” a symbol of how interstate tension can be averted through athletic competition.