Paul Bunyan Trophy Game

Saturday, October 7 2017

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Game History

  • Established:  1953
  • Meetings for Trophy: 64
  • Trophy series: Michigan 36-26-2
  • Longest Michigan streak: 8 (1970-77)
  • Longest MSU streak: 4 (2008-11)
  • 2016 Result: Michigan 32 Michigan State 23
  • Current Streak: Michigan 1

The Paul Bunyan Governor’s Trophy came about in late October of 1953 when then-Governor H. Mennen Williams decided to create a trophy to be presented annually to the winner of the Michigan State vs. Michigan football game. This was a way to welcome the Spartans to the Big Ten. He asked a Lansing jeweler to order the trophy, and it was whipped up in time to present prior to kickoff in East Lansing on November 19, 1953.

However in the weeks leading up to November 19 there was quite a bit of criticism surrounding the trophy. MSU was excited about the trophy and looked forward to its on-field presentation. However Michigan didn’t see much point to it, and even felt any trophy being presented should be more student-driven. Local pundits cynically believed Williams was presenting the trophy as a publicity stunt because the game was going to be broadcast on NBC.

The trophy was shown during pre-game, the Spartans won the game and were happy to keep the trophy in East Lansing. Then in the years that followed the trophy was largely forgotten. It wasn’t until the last 15 years or so that the trophy has been really “rediscovered” and viewed as a prize worth carting off the field.

The Paul Bunyan Governor’s Trophy may not have the history of The Little Brown Jug, Floyd of Rosedale or Old Oaken Bucket, but as it nears its 65th birthday Bunyan has certainly developed a higher profile and has taken its place among the nation’s better rivalry trophies.

Fun Facts

  • Governor G. Mennen Williams was nicknamed “Soapy” because his grandfather founded the Mennen brand of deodorant and grooming products.
  • It cost $1400 to make the trophy. Williams paid for this out of his own pocket.
  • A handful of Spartan fans were so happy with the trophy that they offered to contribute money to offset the trophy’s cost.
  • The MSU football equipment staff had turned the trophy over to Michigan late in the 2015 game. Then Michigan snapped the ball back to its punter and there was a whole lot of scurrying in order to get it back to the MSU locker room.