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The Legend Of The Land Grant Trophy

The story of the Land Grant Trophy begins on February 12, 1809 — the day Abraham Lincoln was born. Born and raised in what would become the heart of Big Ten territory, Lincoln knew the potential for smash-mouth football in the midwest.

When he became the 16th President of the United States, he was determined to institute an act that would create football-playing universities in America’s heartland. Thus, the Morill Land-Grant Act of 1862 was signed into law, providing funding for land-grant colleges across the country and cementing Lincoln’s place in history.

Two agricultural colleges founded in 1855, one in Michigan and the other in Pennsylvania, would serve as models for implementing the system nationwide. As such, the two state schools would become synonymous with the Land Grant Act.

Those two measly cow colleges grew up to become the football powerhouses that Lincoln always envisioned them to be: the Penn State Nittany Lions and Michigan State Spartans. 

By fate, when the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten in 1993, their arbitrarily-assigned ‘rival’ was none other than the Spartans.

Sensing something lacking between the newly manufactured rivals, Joe Paterno and Michigan State head coach George Perles agreed to spice things up like old lovers. Perles knew what would motivate the players to leave it all on the field on the last Saturday of the season: the most objectively beautiful trophy in all of college football, commemorating the schools’ history as pioneer land grant colleges.

Perles commissioned a local East Lansing sporting goods shop to bring his vision to life, presenting the owner with rough crayon-drawn blueprints for a kitchen cabinet, probably.

The unknown artist took Perles’ requests and his or her own artistic liberties, drawing clear inspiration from Michelangelo’s David and the trendy wood panelling from the 1970s. The result was everything that Perles could have possibly imagined, and then some.

Standing over three feet tall and weighing about as much as a full-grown golden retriever, the trophy embodies everything that the Land Grant Act stands for: craftsmanship, statues, iconic school buildings, cabinet-making, and generic gold football figurines.

The trophy is like the birdhouse you made in high school wood shop class if that birdhouse grew up to become, in the words of James Franklin, “the most beautiful trophy in all of college football.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself, coach. 

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About the Author

Anthony Fiset

Anthony is a junior majoring in Economics. He, like many others, is from right outside of Philly, and by right outside of Philly, he means Pittsburgh. His only source of pride is being a lifetime Costco Executive Member. You can call him, beep him if you wanna reach him at [email protected], or follow him on Twitter @antnyfst.


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