Iowa-Nebraska Football: 'Heroes Game' a Great Concept, but Not for a Trophy Game

Kevin TrahanAnalyst IJuly 29, 2011

When Iowa and Nebraska announced earlier this week that they would be unveiling a trophy game on Friday, it was hardly a surprise to anyone.

The game has all the makings of a rivalry—the schools are located in border states, both have outstanding fanbases, both are the most popular sports team in their state and both have very respectable football programs. So the question was never really if the there would be a trophy involved, just when it would be announced and what the trophy would be.

Since last July, experts and fans alike have tried to decide what to call the game. "Farmageddon" was a popular choice, but that name has already been taken by the much more underwhelming Iowa State-Kansas State rivalry.

Other suggestions ranged from "The Missouri River Rivalry" to "The Corn Belt" (a wrestling belt, promoted on Facebook), or anything else incorporating the corn or farm cliche.

However, in an increasingly politically correct and conservative Big Ten, none of those names figured to gain any traction.

So today, when Iowa and Nebraska announced that they would be playing in "The Heroes Game," I was not shocked.

After all, any conference who could come up with "Legends and Leaders" is certainly capable of coming up with something just as cheesy to call its newest rivalry game.

Despite the name, Iowa and Nebraska had a great concept in starting the rivalry. Fans in Iowa and Nebraska will be able to nominate everyday heroes in their lives and one hero will be picked by each university every fall to have their name etched on the trophy.

It's a great way to honor those exemplary football fans who reach out to others, and it will give both fanbases something to cheer about together before each game. Even better, both schools will raise money for the Iowa and Nebraska chapters of the Red Cross.

However, while the spirit of the trophy had the right intentions, it isn't the right route to go for a rivalry game.

Say what you want about the Big Ten, but it is home to some outstanding rivalries and the best trophies in college football.

Among the trophies up for grabs every year are a bronze pig, Paul Bunyan's axe, an old oaken bucket and an Illibuck—which is a turtle with spikes on it for those who don't know—among others.

Every trophy has a story and every trophy signifies the conference's outstanding tradition.

While Iowa and Nebraska can't claim the same type of history as Ohio State-Michigan, Minnesota-Wisconsin or even Purdue-Indiana, both schools could have come up with something that ties their states together and becomes a symbol for the game.

Instead, it wound up with "The Heroes Game"—presented by the grocery store chain HyVee, no less—which comes off more as a gimmicky Legends and Leaders-type cliche than a rivalry.

As Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne pointed out, rival teams and rival fanbases need to share a mutual respect for each other. They can hate each other off the field, but respect that each and every game will be close.

And as Osborne pointed out, a rivalry where one team chooses the other to be their rival—hence Nebraska-Colorado—is not a healthy rivalry.

However, rivalries are rivalries because they garner so much passion from fanbases. They need to include bragging rights, heated arguments and tension. The Heroes Game dilutes that part of the game.

For 364 days of the year, Iowa and Nebraska coming together to honor their heroes and raise money for the Red Cross would be an outstanding idea. But for Friday, Nov. 25, it's completely the wrong concept.

Despite its name, Iowa-Nebraska will still be one of the best rivalries in the Big Ten and will still gather tons of interest from both states. And despite its name, the rivalry should still produce some classic games and the bantering from fans will still be ruthless.

It's just a shame that the athletic departments from both schools couldn't come up with a name and a trophy that signifies the great rivalry and great tradition that this game will become.