The College Football Playoff Trophy and before that, the BCS Championship Crystal Ball. The Heisman Trophy. The New Year’s Six Trophies. The Big 12 Championship Trophy.
These configurations of crystal, glass, and/or precious metals and stones are the most sought-after prizes for teams and players each and every season. But there are other trophies out there, maybe less known but to some teams just as valuable.
When two schools meet up year after year, bragging rights are great, but a trophy is even better. It doesn’t even have to be “precious” metal, it can be an old chunk of iron from your grandmother’s pantry, as long as it signifies a win over your bitter rival.
The Big 12 is home to some of the greatest trophies in college football, and here are the Top Five.
5. Governer’s Cup – Kansas vs. Kansas State
This trophy’s rivalry matchup, called the “Sunflower Showdown,” came in fifth on our rivalries list as well, and is one of the most underrated rivalries in the Big 12 conference. Kansas and Kansas State have met in all but one year (1910) since October 7, 1902, making it one of the oldest rivalries in Division-I college football history.
The two schools have battled for the Governer’s Cup since its introduction in 1969, with Kansas State holding the edge since that point at 32-19-1. In fact, at this point, KU might have forgotten what the trophy looks like because Kansas State has won a whopping 13 straight dating back to 2008 with an average score of 41-14.
The Cup is actually the third trophy associated with this rivalry, preceded by the “Governor’s Trophy” originally, and then the “Peace Pact Trophy,” which was a miniature bronze goalpost. It was intended to keep the winning team’s student body from tearing down the loser’s goalpost after years of it happening.
4. Saddle Trophy – Texas Tech vs. TCU
Previously called the “West Texas Championship,” Texas Tech and TCU have met 64 times with Texas Tech leading the series 32-39-3. In 1961, the “Saddle Trophy” was introduced to rivalry and stuck around for a decade before it went away in 1971. Then, in 2017, the saddle made a return, as described by TCU’s official site:
“The Saddle Trophy sits on a stand and includes the logos for TCU and Texas Tech. Currently, scores for 59 years of the rivalry are represented on the Saddle Trophy stand with adornment of the trophy plates to equal 100 years. It will travel in a case to Lubbock and be presented to the winning team after the game.”
Since the Saddle was reinstated in the rivalry, the TCU Horned Frogs have taken it back to Fort Worth in four out of five meetings.
3. Iron Skillet – TCU vs. SMU
Don’t overthink it, this trophy is exactly what it sounds like, and that’s what makes it awesome. TCU and SMU have met exactly 100 times, with the Horned Frogs leading the series 51-42-7. Now, there are conflicting stories of how this trophy came to be.
Both stories agree that the trophy originated in 1946 in the first “Battle for the Iron Skillet.” According to SMU’s website, before that game, an SMU fan was frying frog legs as a joke. When a TCU fan saw what was happening, they proposed that the winner of the game should get the skillet and the frog legs.
According to TCU’s site, weeks before the game took place, SMU’s Student Council proposed the idea of a traveling trophy. TCU accepted the idea and the two schools met in Dallas to discuss the specifics of the trophy. But why is it an Iron Skillet? TCU says it’s unclear, but SMU fans frying frog legs in the 1950s was cited, directly conflicting the reports of the 1946 origination.
Either way, the randomness of this trophy is what makes it awesome. Plus, the rivalry is very competitive historically, which is why it is on this list.
2. CyHawk Trophy – Iowa vs. Iowa State
You can’t talk Big 12 trophies without mentioning the CyHawk Trophy, the traveling trophy that goes home with the winner of Iowa and Iowa State. The Cyclones have had a hard time of late, losing six in a row and 10 of the last 13 to the Hawkeyes. Overall Iowa holds the edge in the series, 46-22, making it one of the rare rivalries to never post a tie as a final score.
The Cy-Hawk trophy started back with a bowling team, led by Bob Uetz, that created the trophy ahead of the 1977 game, the first time that the rival met since 1934. Uetz and his bowling team each chipped in $50 to create the trophy and it was a part of the series until an “updated trophy” was introduced in 2011. However, that trophy never made it to the game, as it received all kinds of backlash for it’s awful design. An interim trophy was used that year, and Iowa State players accidentally broke it during the celebration of their 44-41 3OT victory.
Finally, in 2012, a new and improved trophy was unveiled and is still used today, while the original belongs to the Greater Des Moines Athletic Club, an organization started by Bob Uetz and his friends when the trophy was created nearly 50 years ago.
1. The Golden Hat – Oklahoma vs. Texas
This was a pretty easy choice for No. 1 considering that the Golden Hat is easily the most recognizable rivalry trophy in football. Oklahoma and Texas have battled for the trophy in every year since 1941, with Texas holding a 40-39-3 edge since that point.
Texas also holds the edge for the entire series 62-50-5, but the tides have turned in Oklahoma’s favor since the turn of the century, as the Sooners have won 14 of 21 since 2000.
This game has been insanely competitive over the last 80 years, but particularly crazy in recent years.
Seven of the last eight games have been decided by seven points or less, and the last two games have been among the best in this game’s illustrious history. In 2021, Oklahoma defeated Texas 53-45, but they needed four overtimes to do so. Spencer Rattler’s touchdown to Drake Stoops in 4OT was enough to put the Sooners ahead and an interception by Tre Brown on the final play of the game put Texas to bed for good.
Then 2021 attempted to take the drama up a notch, and didn’t need more than regulation to do so. Oklahoma was down 28-7 late in the first quarter, but a Herculean comeback was led by true freshman Caleb Williams. The Sooners marched back and took their first lead (48-41) with 7:10 left in the fourth quarter. After Texas tied the game (48-48) with 1:23 left on a 31-yard Xavier Worthy touchdown reception, Sooners’ running Kennedy Brook scampered for a 33-yard score and a knockout punch with :03 left, ending the game with a 55-48 Oklahoma victory.