The Little Brown Jug has already seen one pandemic, and on a field in Minneapolis, Michigan and Minnesota will fight for it once again in the midst of a second pandemic.
The teams were already rivals in 1903, when Fielding Yost, and his Michigan Wolverines, left behind the 25 cent crockery. The Gophers painted the jug brown, and wrote the final score on it. The next time the two teams met, they agreed that the jug would make a nice trophy. Minnesota and Michigan have been battling for the jug ever since.
There was an eight year gap when Michigan left the Big Ten Conference, but the two teams were scheduled to restart their rivalry in 1918. That game never happened.
Minnesota had its first case of influenza in late September 1918. Within three weeks, there were over 1500 cases reported. Businesses were shut down, and gatherings banned by October 9. Like today, there were mixed reactions to the precautions. The University of Minnesota did not reopen until October 23.*
Sports across the country dealt with the pandemic, just like today. Alabama and LSU did not have a season. The World Series was played early, and the Stanley Cup was called off after 5 games because Montreal could not field a healthy team.**
It wasn’t the pandemic that kept Michigan from playing Minnesota in 1918, but the war effort. The Army had instituted a travel ban, so teams had to keep their games close to campus.
The two rivals did meet again in 1919. The Gophers won 34-7, with 1919 being the only year Yost finished with a losing record (3-4).
The Big Ten returns on Saturday, which many consider a good thing, and just as many probably do not. In any event, we have been here before, even though it predates the vast majority of us. We did get through it.
The very same 25 cent Jug will be up for grabs for the 104th time on Saturday in Minneapolis.