MSU and U of M rooted in rivalry for decades
By Christen Jamoua and Ashourina Slewo
As big a legend as the infamous Paul Bunyan Governor’s trophy, the rivalry between the University of Michigan and Michigan State dates back more than 60 years. Rooted in the sport of football more than anything, the rivalry has taken on a life of its own as it dominates the image of both universities.
As it were, each year, the two universities battle it out on the field in hopes of taking the trophy home and hosting it until the following year. The team that wins, makes the trip back home with the famed, mythical lumberjack.
The annual fight for the Paul Bunyan trophy is the lesser-known of the trophy games, as it is not nationally recognized. However, tensions rise as the rivals meet once a year on the field for both the trophy and an “inside track to a bowl game.” The venue for each game alternates between the two universities, with this year’s game taking place in Ann Arbor.
The larger than life rivalry, however, does not bleed into academics, with its line of vision remaining on sports. In fact, the rivalry tends to only flare up at athletic events, lying dormant for the remainder of the year.
“It primarily stems from the football and basketball rivalries, but turns uglier when some students or alumni get into academic or attitude reputations,” said Spencer Sitto, Michigan State alumni and former Chaldean American Student Association (CASA) leader. “It’s mostly in good spirit.”
According to Marc Casey, a student at the University of Michigan who works in the office for the athletic director, the rivalry is undoubtedly the result of the universities sports programs. However, while there is competition as far as academia there is little, if any focus or mention.
From alumni, to current students of the universities, one thing is agreed upon, the rivalry – as intense as it may seem – is more of a healthy competition than it is hostile. Andrew Dickow, director at Greenwich Capital Group, grew up as a Michigan fan because of his family, but ultimately decided that he would prefer to study at Michigan State.
As a result, Dickow states that the rivalry carried over into his home, between him and his relatives who are Michigan fans. “Till this day I buy him [Dickow’s uncle] a gag gift like a [Michigan State University] flip flop or a hat or something because I’m a huge State fan and they’re diehard Michigan fans,” said Dickow. “We always try to give each other a hard time, but it’s all in good fun.”
Unlike, Dickow, Nick Kallabat, chemist and University of Michigan alumni, applied to both the University of Michigan and Michigan State. “I applied to both and I got accepted to Michigan, but not State,” said Kallabat. “Since then I hated State. I have friends that went to State and whenever they talk negatively about Michigan, I shut them down.”
Even as the universities vie to be the best in the state, the rivalry remains tame on a day-to-day basis on each respective campus. “In general, the students at the two schools respect one another, so it’s hardly mentioned on a daily basis on campus,” said Sitto. “It’s definitely something that comes up more during athletic events. The rivalry hasn’t changed the core values of Michigan State. The dynamics at Michigan State are still genuine and we treat the U of M students with respect on our campus.”
From battling it out on the field to the famed Sparty statue being vandalized with blue and maize, the age-old rivalry always intensifies in the athletic realm of the universities and intermittently in academia. More often than not, though, the constant competition is just that, a friendly competition between two prestigious universities.
“We [Dickow and his colleagues] give each other a hard time and we send texts and things of that nature, we make fun of each other and we get into it especially when we are watching the games together, but at the end of the day there’s an underlying respect for both programs,” said Dickow.