The original Paul Bunyan Axe, which is 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.
The Badgers and Golden Gophers have met on the gridiron 113 times, making it the most-played rivalry in Division I-A 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 rivals kept the axe for display on its campus. The scores of every meeting are painted on the axe's handle.
The 56-year-old trophy was becoming somewhat unstable, especially in light of the way it is handled today during celebrations by the winning school. Additionally, the axe handle was running out of room for future scores. As such, a new, sturdier axe was created by UW's W Club in 2000.
Athletic Directors Pat Richter (Wisconsin) and Joel Maturi (Minnesota) agreed that the institutions would present the original axe and additional series artifacts to the College Football Hall of Fame to celebrate the most-played series in Division I-A college football.
"This rivalry between bordering schools is the one of the neatest traditions in college football," says Richter, who played in the match-up twice. "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 a 37-34 triumph in Minneapolis on Nov. 8.
"The axe has come to represent the importance of the Minnesota-Wisconsin rivalry," says Maturi. "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 send a team helmet to the hall, which will be included in the exhibit. Additionally, the Badgers have a football that was used in the 1918 contest between Wisconsin and Minnesota which will be donated. The Golden Gophers won that game 6-0.
Minnesota leads the all-time series 59-46-8. The schools have met every year consecutively since a 17-17 tie in 1907.