By Jerry Harrington
Most college football fans know of the storied Floyd of Rosedale trophy, the prized bronze pig annually awarded to the winner of Iowa-Minnesota football game. Many, however, don’t know of the colorful origin of this interstate crown.
The first Floyd was an actual Iowa pig, fought over between the two Big Ten schools in 1935. This flesh-and-blood hog was initially a last-minute peace offering designed to cool the very, very hot tempers on both sides of the states’ border, stemming from the prior year’s game. The four-legged prize succeeded in lowering temperatures and avoiding violence.
This intriguing story also involved charges of racism, a battle for the national college football championship, threats thunderously tossed between Iowa and Minnesota officials and an Iowa governor charged with gambling.
The story begins with an amazing young African-American athlete who arrived on the University of Iowa campus in 1933, hitching a ride by rail to Iowa City from Fort Worth, Texas. Ozzie Simmons graduated from a segregated high school there and wanted to play college football. However, the Jim Crow laws and customs of the South at the time prevented him from playing with quality college programs in that region. He had heard that the University of Iowa accepted black athletes into its football program, so he and his older brother, Don, traveled north.
The Simmons brothers waltzed into the office of Iowa football coach Ossie Solem and asked to be on the team. After an initial discussion, the surprised coach invited the two brothers to a practice that afternoon where Ozzie Simmons returned two punts for touchdowns. Coach Solem knew he had a couple special players and said to the brothers, “We’ll find you a place to stay.”