UW Health Sports Medicine 

How the Axe Came to Be



Wisconsin vs. Minnesota is the most-played rivalry in Division I-A football, with the 2006 meeting marking the 116th meeting. As soon as the final seconds of each game pass, players from the winning team run to their bench or their opponents bench to hoist what is rightfully theirs: the Paul Bunyan Axe.

The Paul Bunyan Axe, named after the mythical giant lumberjack, was implemented in 1948 by the National W Club at the University of Wisconsin. It was created to replace the Slab of Bacon that went missing in the early 1940s.

There is more at stake than just a win or loss on the team record when the Badgers and Gophers face each other on the gridiron. The winner of the game each fall gets to keep the Axe on its campus.

The first meeting between Wisconsin and Minnesota dates back to Nov. 15, 1890. It was just the fourth Wisconsin football game ever. The Gophers won the inaugural battle, 63-0, and the start of one of college footballs hottest rivalries was born.

The schools met for 15 consecutive years after that before the series took a one-year hiatus in 1906. The series resumed in 1907, a 7-7 tie, and the two schools have met every year since. In addition, Madison and Minneapolis have alternated hosting the historic matchup since the beginning of the modern era in 1946.

The National W Club created a new axe in 2000 for the two teams to play for. The old one became unsteady and the six-foot long handle was running out of room for scores.

In 2003, the Wisconsin and Minnesota athletic departments donated the original axe to the College Football Hall of Fame.

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