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Gophers reclaim Paul Bunyan’s Axe
November 26, 2018
It took 15 years, but the University of Minnesota is now in possession of Paul Bunyan’s Axe—one of college football’s most iconic traveling trophies and a symbol of the most-played rivalry in the sport.
The Gophers traveled to Camp Randall Stadium (where they hadn’t won since 1994) on Nov. 24 and outplayed the Wisconsin Badgers, parlaying four turnovers and a methodical, time-consuming rushing attack to a 37-15 upset.
With the victory, Minnesota evened its season record at 6-6 (3-6 in the Big Ten) and became bowl eligible in Coach P.J. Fleck’s second season. It was also Fleck’s first conference road victory, and evened the score in the all-time series between the two teams, 60-60-8.
The Gophers surged to a 17-0 first-half lead on Demetrius Douglas’ 69-yard punt return for a touchdown. Leading 17-7 to start the second half, the Gophers expanded the cushion to 37-7 before Wisconsin scored a late touchdown. Freshman running back Mohamed Ibrahim led the way, rushing for 121 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
Update: On Dec. 2 Minnesota accepted an invitation to play Georgia Tech in the Quick Lane Bowl on Dec. 26 at Ford Field in Detroit. The kickoff is set for 4:15 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPN.
From certifiable classic to state-of-the-art, the U of M is bursting with iconic sports facilities. We have the venerable Williams Arena (aka “The Barn”)—with its unique raised floor—which has seen a century’s worth of hardcourt history. There’s the world-class University Aquatic Center, which has hosted numerous championship events. And our puck fans light up when they walk into Mariucci and Ridder Arenas, the envy of hockey fans everywhere. Discover more about our athletics facilities.
Good Times at ‘The Bank’
On the east edge of campus, TCF Bank Stadium is one of the newest stadiums in the country. It boasts the largest home locker room in college or professional football (you could run a 60-yard dash inside it) and one of the largest video boards. It’s home to the University of Minnesota Marching Band, and hosts big-name concerts and freshman convocation.
The University of Minnesota sporting scene is rich in traditions, from Homecoming (which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2014) to homespun chants that get the crowd going.
A Tradition of Excellence
From our seven national championships in football to our 11 combined national titles in women’s and men’s hockey, the University of Minnesota is known for its athletics excellence.
Here’s a snapshot of that greatness. Last year alone, the U of M won four team conference championships along with one national championship in women's hockey. The Gophers also had three individual NCAA national champions—Yu Zhou in 3-meter diving, Kierra Smith in 200 breaststroke, and Luca Wieland in heptathlon.
Our student-athletes also excelled in the classroom. For the second year in a row, the U of M ranked first among public institutions in its Academic Progress Report (APR). Fifteen Gopher programs posted perfect APR scores in 2013-14, and Gopher student-athletes had a cumulative GPA of 3.27.
Why are the Gopher colors maroon and gold, you ask? Thank Mrs. Augusta Smith for that. She was an English instructor (with good design sense) who chose those colors for graduation garb in 1880, “which made a favorable impression on the students and faculty,” so the story goes. “Ski-U-Mah” began 130 years ago as a rugby chant, playing off a Sioux battle cry. And legendary radio announcer Halsey Hall coined the nickname “Golden Gophers” in reference to the all-gold attire of the football team in the 1930s. Those years were golden, indeed, as the Gophers won five national championships in football between 1934 and 1941.
Cheerleading was Born Here
One of the most visible traditions in all of sports originated at the University of Minnesota. In the fall of 1898, the football team had lost three straight games and an editorial in the school paper said, “Any plan that would stir up enthusiasm for athletics would be helpful.” Student Johnny Campbell offered to lead organized cheers at the next home game against Northwestern, which Minnesota won 17-6. Much of the credit went to Campbell and his “yell leaders.” At that otherwise ordinary game, the tradition of cheerleading was born.
When it comes to excellence—and toothy grins—nobody beats Goldy Gopher, the beloved U of M mascot. Goldy is both athletic (how many other rodents can stickhandle a puck on ice or crank out 56 pushups after an eighth touchdown?) and entertaining, evidenced by two national mascot champion titles this decade.
You want entertainment? Goldy’s antics will make your head spin … or is it the other way around?
A Snapshot of Gopher Greats
Big Time in the Big Ten
When you talk about big-time power conferences, the Big Ten tops the list. It’s the oldest Division I college athletic conference in the nation, with a lineage of legendary sports powers—Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio State, and Wisconsin, to name a few—and more than a century of athletic and academic excellence.
How big is it? The Big Ten launched the first conference-owned television network in 2007, and the Big Ten Network now has more than 50 million subscribers. And the conference is growing. Penn State became the 11th school in 1990, Nebraska the 12th in 2011, and this year the conference welcomes Maryland and Rutgers.
Welcome to the Big Ten, sports fans. It doesn’t get any bigger.
It’s not just about the sports that others play at the University of Minnesota. You can stay fit, healthy, and happy, too. Students have access to stunning Recreation and Wellness Centers. Here you can take group fitness classes, join in intramural sports, go climbing, swimming, or spinning, and find just the right exercise—indoors or out—to fit your needs.