When the Nebraska Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten in 2011, their annual series with the Minnesota Golden Gophers didn’t seem like it’d amount to much other than a conference victory for the winner. However, thanks to a seemingly innocent Twitter back-and-forth, it has become something truly special.
Thanks to a tongue-in-cheek “bet” between famous Twitter parody account Faux Pelini and that of Minnesota’s Goldy Gopher, the $5 Bits of Trophy Chair trophy was born.
One of the most popular sub-forums on Reddit.com, r/CFB now has more than 500,000 subscribers and was quick to step in to supply a design for an idea that could perhaps only be a result of Internet college football fandom.
Four years later, the trophy’s meaning and goals have increased by leaps and bounds. Catching up with Joe Bernard, leader of media for the trophy’s crew, we were able to find out where the trophy stood in the eyes of both the schools and fans.
“The organic way that the trophy originated isn’t dissimilar to how the Little Brown Jug or the Floyd of Rosedale first came about, and while we’ve got many years to go before the Chair is equally revered, there’s definitely something about the trophy that fans connect with," Bernard said.
Bernard points out that he and the crew have witnessed some very unique support for their work. While not officially recognized by either school, how fans have embraced the trophy has allowed the The $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy Chair-ity to thrive and provide meaningful assistance along with a spirited and fan-friendly rivalry. Not only does Bernard’s group work with the Team Jack Foundation and Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, they do so without the backing of the aforementioned university establishments.
With new Nebraska athletic director Bill Moos and head football coach Scott Frost stepping into their roles, the possibility of the trophy being given an official blessing popped back up. While that doesn’t look to be in the cards right now, the group continues to have a very productive relationship with both schools.
Minnesota head coach P.J. Fleck did comment on the trophy during last year’s weekly call-in show saying, “This program is about two things, we've always said this: about serving and giving. And any time you have a rivalry that's kind of been reborn or born from some type of charitable donation or charitable event, I mean, that's special. So anything that we can be a part of to raise money for other people and any time our program can be a part of that, we want to be a part of that.”
This undertaking is done by an eight-person committee — five from Minnesota and three from Nebraska — all with different niches such as marketing, web design, media relations and even a trophy fabricator in Lincoln who stepped in following the loss of the original trophy.
Fundraising has been a bit of a roller coaster, but so far, goals have been exceeded. Last year’s goal of $5,000 was bested by $2,500. While this year’s mark of $10,000 only sits at about 25 percent attained as of this writing, Bernard pointed out that the main push last year happened during game week, which his group expects to happen again this year. (See additional information below)
Bernard shared the most important statement that those behind the trophy want to get out:
“We always say two things: 1) It’s all about the kids, and 2) This is what college football is all about. Fans caring so dang much about their teams that they band together to keep a silly little trophy alive, while raising money for worthy causes, all for pride in their universities. Whatever happens with the trophy in the future, there’s already enough here to go down in the Husker and Gopher history books as a pretty awesome story.”
A trophy that has so much life breathed into it thanks to fan interest alone should be championed and, ideally, officially implemented. After all, if the Land-Grant Trophy can be a thing, the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy has already earned a place in fans’ hears across both fan bases. It’s just awaiting to be officially embraced. If you’d like to make an impact, e-mailing both schools’ athletic departments certainly couldn’t hurt.
Donations can be made by heading to brokenchairtrophy.com or by going directly to its GoFundMe page. Parties for the trophy will be taking place in Minneapolis on the 18th and in Lincoln on the 19th. Be sure to follow the group on Twitter at @ChairTrophy and on Facebook at @BrokenChairTrophy to get updates on where they’ll be this Saturday when the Golden Gophers visit the Cornhuskers to face off yet again.
— Written by Brandon Cavanaugh, FWAA member and part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Be sure to follow him on Twitter (@eightlaces) plus keep up with stat-filled features on his Patreon page.
(Top photo by Nikki Moore Photography)