Arkansas will play its third and final trophy game of the season at Missouri on the day after Thanksgiving, trying to hold on to one of the three rivalry trophies the Razorbacks claimed in 2021.
By Matt Jones
The team has relinquished two of those trophies this year in close losses to Texas A&M and LSU by a combined five points. Prior to the 23-21 loss to the Aggies in September, Arkansas had simultaneous control of all three trophies for the first time. In 2021, the Razorbacks snapped long losing streaks in all three trophy games. Arkansas’ 20-10 victory over Texas A&M ended a nine-game losing streak in the series, and the Razorbacks snapped fivegame losing streaks to LSU and Missouri with wins by scores of 16-13 in overtime and 34-17, respectively. Winning those trophies for the first time in a long time held so much significance to Arkansas coach Sam Pittman that a team photo was taken with all three trophies at the end of the season. The trophies are well-known in Arkansas, but their origin stories aren’t known well. Here is a background on each trophy: GOLDEN BOOT TROPHY This is Arkansas’ longest-running trophy game and the Razorbacks’ most recognizable trophy. Arkansas and LSU have played for the “The Boot” each year since 1996. The 4-foot trophy is a 24-karat gold, 175-pound geographical outline of the states of Arkansas and Louisiana, which resembles the shape of a cowboy boot. Both schools contributed $5,000 toward the trophy that was designed at a Little Rock jewelry store and manufactured in Boston. It was conceptualized by David Bazzel, a former Arkansas linebacker from 198185 who also created the Broyles Award in 1996. Frank Broyles, the long-time Arkansas athletics director and football coach, was impressed with the trophy and told Bazzel to let him know if he had any ideas that would promote the Razorbacks’ football team. Bazzel, who grew up in Florida, was influenced by the several trophies he saw exchanged in the Big Ten — iconic trophies like Paul Bunyan’s Axe (Wisconsin-Minnesota), the Little Brown Jug (Michigan-Minnesota) and Floyd of Rosedale (Iowa-Minnesota), to name a few. Because Arkansas and LSU ended each season against each other, and because both teams had fallen on hard times in the 1990s, Bazzel thought a trophy game might add some flavor to their annual matchup. Bazzel researched the series that began in the early 1900s. In 1909, Arkansas’ 16-0 victory over LSU in Memphis, Tenn., inspired then-coach Hugo Bezdek to proclaim his team — known then as the Cardinals — had played like a “wild band of Razorback hogs,” inspiring a change to the school’s mascot. There were other notable games between the teams, such as Cotton Bowl matchups in 1947 and 1966, the latter of which was a 14-7 victory by the Tigers that ended the Razorbacks’ 22-game winning streak and kept Arkansas from potentially winning a second consecutive national championship. LSU’s first live mascot, Mike the Tiger, was purchased for $750 from the Little Rock Zoo in 1936. There was thought to the teams playing for a Bowie Knight, which had a tie-in to both states, but Bazzel wanted something bigger that would stand out. With 18 wins in the series since 1996, LSU has won the trophy twice as many times as Arkansas, but the games have typically been highly competitive. In the 27 battles for The Boot, 14 games have been decided by one possession and there have been plenty of upsets, which are needed to add value to a rivalry trophy. Three games have gone to overtime and six times — including this year — a win in the series clinched a division championship. BATTLE LINE TROPHY In 2014, Missouri replaced LSU as Arkansas’ permanent opponent at the end of the regular season. By 2015, a trophy had been established for the winner of the annual game. Bazzel was approached by the schools to be the creator. He used a similar concept to the Golden Boot, creating a 52-inch, 180-pound silver trophy that is shaped like the geographical outlines of Arkansas and Missouri. An additional 25-pound ribbon is attached to the center of the trophy with the school color of the winning team. Production of the trophy occurred in three states — Arkansas, California and Maryland — and the process included amazing attention to detail. A water jet machine cut the 90-pound, 2 1/2-inch thick outline of the states from 1,200 pounds of steel. This process took 40 consecutive hours. The trophy later required 30 hours of hand polishing over the course of four days. The Battle Line Trophy has failed to catch on within either fanbase as a major rivalry game and stakes have rarely been high for the end-of-year matchup. Missouri has a 5-2 record in games when the trophy is handed out, with three of those wins coming by one possession. Arkansas would record a first this week by winning the trophy at Mizzou’s Faurot Field. The Razorbacks’ only SEC wins over the Tigers have come in Fayetteville. SOUTHWEST CLASSIC TROPHY It seems the least is known about this trophy, which goes to the winner of the Arkansas-Texas A&M game. The trophy — with a silver base and silver football sitting atop a glass feature with both teams’ logos and a logo of the Southwest Classic — was designed by R.S. Owens, a suburban Chicago company that manufactures the Oscar statues given to winners at the Academy Awards. It was made in Oklahoma City. The award is only presented when the teams play at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The family of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had the idea for the trophy as a reward for the team that won the annual non-conference game at the Cowboys’ home stadium. It was awarded for the first time in 2010 when the Razorbacks won 24-17, and the Razorbacks won it again the following year with a 42-38 victory. Texas A&M joined the SEC the following season and the first two conference games between the Razorbacks and the Aggies were played on campus while the Arlington series was restructured. The trophy has been presented each year since 2014, with the exception of 2020 when the game was played at Kyle Field due to the pandemic. With the Arkansas-Texas A&M neutralsite series contracted to end in 2024 — and with little hope of it being renewed in following years — it will be interesting to see if the trophy continues to be up for grabs when those teams play in 2025 and beyond. The coming changes to the SEC football schedule might affect how often some of these trophy games are played. Arkansas athletics director Hunter Yurachek has said it is likely the Razorbacks will continue to play Missouri every year under any scheduling model by the league, but games against LSU and Texas A&M could potentially move to every other year.