The Anatomy Of The Land-Grant Trophy
In the past, James Franklin has rightfully called the Land-Grant Trophy the “most beautiful trophy in all of college football.” Others, who don’t understand or appreciate art, tend to disagree.
When people claim that the Land-Grant Trophy is ugly, it makes me wonder if we are even looking at the same trophy. It is objectively beautiful.
So, for those of you who have never taken Art History 100 or have taken it, but not with Sarah Rich, I am here to help you understand what makes this trophy so gosh-darn gorgeous.
1. Generic Gold Football Figurine
The crown jewel of the Land-Grant Trophy is its shiny gold topper: a generic man running the football. This elegant nod to smash-mouth Big Ten football is the primary focal point of the trophy, and it really makes you appreciate the brand of football that was made possible by the Morrill Act of 1862.
The pure simplicity of the generic gold trophy figurine intrigues the viewer to ponder its meaning. Was it one of Joe Paterno’s first-ever pee-wee football trophies that he donated to former Spartan head coach and trophy designer George Perles for the top of the trophy? Did they purchase it at Walmart? These are the questions that have evaded art historians for decades, and they simply never need to be answered.
2. Textbook Butt-Joint
Yes, this is really called a butt-joint. If you have ever taken a woodshop class, I’m sure this is ingrained in your memory. Speaking of woodshop, the creator of this magnificent trophy would have certainly gotten an A+ for this perfect 90-degree joint.
The wooden corner piece provides a beautiful frame for the golden topper and gives the appearance that it is rising up from the statue. It is intentionally asymmetric to create a depth effect, which has been the inspiration for most modern architecture.
3. Wood And Stain
While no one knows for certain which lucky tree provided the rich mahogany for the famed Land-Grant Trophy, legend says that it was made from reclaimed wood from Abraham Lincoln’s childhood log cabin. The only thing we know for certain is that it’s heavy. Its premium, weatherproof, and dark stain has worked wonders to keep the wood looking brand new after all these years of rainy football games.
4. List Of Trophy Winners
Often the most overlooked side of the trophy is the panel of trophy winners from years past. Since only two teams are lucky enough to get a chance to compete for the greatest trophy ever made, each engraved nameplate says either Penn State or Michigan State. Granted, it is an odd feature for a trophy with only two potential winners, but the NHL completely stole this idea when it started engraving players’ names on the Stanley Cup.
5. Land-Grant University Statues
Arguably the most iconic features of the trophy are the two university’s famous statues. Each resting on its own shelf, Penn State’s Lion Shrine and Michigan State’s Spartan Statue adorn the already beautiful block of wood.
The stark juxtaposition of the crouching lion and standing spartan symbolizes the hatred that fuels the rivalry between the two Land-Grant universities. Furthermore, the bold placement of statues on the side of the trophy is unlike anything ever seen before in trophy design. Quite frankly, it was a risk that turned out perfectly.
6. Smaller, Black And White Photo Of Land-Grant University Buildings
Beneath the Lion Shrine, there is a small black and white print of Michigan State’s Beaumont Tower and the bell tower of Penn State’s Old Main. There is some text along with the two illustrations, but it has been nearly impossible to decipher what it says from internet photos of the trophy.
It is unclear where this print originated. Most historians have theorized that it could be a sketch that Abraham Lincoln drew while dreaming up the Morrill Act or an original print from the Daily Collegian from the first-ever Penn State-Michigan State football game. Nonetheless, it adds a unique, rustic charm to the trophy that you don’t get from other college football hardware.
7. Ornate Shelving
Nothing will make you appreciate the intricate craftsmanship that went into the Land-Grant Trophy more than its beautiful shelves. A rare combination of fashion and function, these shelves give the Land-Grant Trophy its enchanting beauty.
Here, the designer makes a profound statement about the beauty in the world around us. Every time you look at a regular old shelf, you are reminded of its invaluable utility which makes it so sexy, and that makes you love the shelves on the Land-Grant Trophy even more.
8. Color Photos Of The Land-Grant University Buildings
Some might say that this final addition was too flashy, but I think it gives the trophy the perfect pop of color. Old Main and Beaumont Tower appear again on opposite sides of each other to represent each Land-Grant University’s rich history — intertwined by the Abraham Lincoln and the Morrill Act of 1862.
Notice the symmetry of the photos on the bottom half of the trophy in contrast with the upper half. This contrast helps tell the story of the Land-Grant Trophy, and it creates interest as your eyes wander up and down its wooden trunk.
Not many people can appreciate these sophisticated design elements that make the Land-Grant Trophy the most beautiful trophy ever conceived, but hopefully, now that you are more cultured, you finally understand.
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