Big Ten: Otto Graham
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Sweet Sioux Tomahawk is four months into retirement, and athletic department officials from Illinois and Northwestern are brainstorming ideas for a new rivalry trophy, awarded to the winner of their annual football game.
Now they need your help.
Both schools are holding polls on their official Web sites where fans can vote for four trophy ideas or propose one of their own. The Web polls will be open until April 15, and the schools expect to reveal the new trophy by April 25, the date of both teams' spring games.
Here are the four choices you can vote on:
- The Land of Lincoln Trophy -- A replica of Lincoln's stove pipe hat mounted on a piece of White Oak (Illinois' state tree).
- President's Trophy -- Recognizing the four presidents associated with the state of Illinois: Lincoln, Grant, Reagan and Obama.
- The Popcorn Bowl, named after the Illinois state snack.
- Graham-Grange Fire Bell (original series trophy started in 1941 was a fire bell), named after two of the greatest players at each school Otto Graham of Northwestern and Red Grange of Illinois.
I don't think enough college football fans will make the connection between Illinois and presidents or popcorn. I'm thinking the Popcorn Bowl trophy will look too much like the one from the MTV Movie Awards.
The Lincoln Trophy could look pretty cool, but my favorite is the Fire Bell, which honors the game's original tradition and the two greatest players from each team. The Northwestern blog Hailtopurple.com proposed it in November and has a great explanation of the history.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
You don't have to look back too far to identify the faces of Northwestern football. The program's history before 1995 was mainly miserable, and that's putting it mildly. There was a 34-game losing streak and years of non-competitive teams in the Big Ten.
But everything shifted in 1995 as the Wildcats won the Big Ten and reached the Rose Bowl. The program has been respectable ever since, winning two more league titles and reaching five bowl games.
The first three faces for Northwestern's Rushmore were obvious, while the fourth was a tougher choice.
- Gary Barnett -- Barnett changed the culture in Evanston and led one of the most improbable college football stories in recent memory as Northwestern won the 1995 Big Ten title and reached the Rose Bowl. As Wildcats head coach from 1992-99, Barnett helped the Wildcats to two league titles and their first bowl games since 1949.
- Otto Graham -- One of the greatest all-around athletes in school history, Graham earned All-America honors in both football and basketball. Earning the nickname "Automatic Otto," Graham broke every Big Ten passing record during his college career and won the league's MVP award in 1943. He was later inducted into both the college and pro football Hall of Fame.
- Pat Fitzgerald -- Fitzgerald won back-to-back National Defensive Player of the Year awards as a standout middle linebacker for the Wildcats on their Big Ten title-winning squads. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in December and became the nation's youngest head coach in 2006 when he took the reins at his alma mater. Northwestern went 9-4 in Fitzgerald's third season, and he's regarded as one of the game's top young coaches.
- Darnell Autry -- When your face has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated, there's a pretty good chance it ends up on your team's Rushmore. Along with Fitzgerald, Autry was a front man for the 1995 Rose Bowl squad and finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting that year. The running back owns two of the top four single-season rushing totals in team history.