I’ve received a few questions about the Little Brown Jug since I started this series, and the most common involves an upcoming dilemma.  There are 91 scores painted on the jug dating back to 1903, including 66 Michigan wins, 22 for the Gophers, three ties (1903, 1933, and 1950) with just two slots remaining in the current configuration:


The teams resume their rivalry in 2011 in Ann Arbor and the return to Minneapolis and the new TCF Stadium in 2012.  Beyond that a decision will need to be made if they intend to continue writing the scores of the games on the jug.

Oscar’s Prize
The teams didn’t actually play for the jug in 1903—Michigan left the pottery behind after they left Minneapolis and the Gophers claimed it as prize before the teams agreed to play for it prior to the 1909 game.  The tradition of painting on the jug started right off the bat thanks to Minnesota “custodian” Oscar Munson and athletic director L.J. “Doc” Cooke.  Here’s a look at their handiwork:

66 oscar

On the left, the jug suspended in 1905 from the ceiling of Doc Cooke’s office offers a view of the score of the game with some special emphasis (MINNESOTA 6, Michigan 6).

To the right, the other side with a from the 1910 Michiganensian of the ‘Michigan Jug’ with “Captured” by Oscar with the date of the game and up top, a warning: ‘Not to be taken from the Gymnasium’. (Maybe if they would have left that warning in tact in the 1930s, we wouldn’t have had this problem).

So the tradition of painting this beauty started early and obviously evolved from the 6-6 score taking up a quarter of the jug, to today’s 91 scores (within 90 slots – the teams played twice in 1926, two wins for the good guys FWIW) arranged in four columns that nestle in pairs in between the painted M logos for each squad.  The current score grid consists of 92 available slots, slight unbalanced with 48 scores on the Blue side along with 44 on the Maroon (including the two remaining slots):


One curiosity—beneath the columns of scores starting with 1903 and 1941, there is a row that spans that segment of the jug that was left blank.  I have no explanation beyond that it appears as though that section is a little beat up and perhaps they decided to avoid it with the paintbrush:


What to Do
So, assuming they don’t use that mysterious row, that’ll give them two more games until they have to make a decision.  The possibilities with commentary:

1. Stop putting scores on the jug. No way.  I will fight you.

2. Just remove some of the old scores.  That’d kill me and again, I will fight you.  You can’t take off the old scores.  While the first game didn’t take place until 1909, you have got to leave the 1903 tie score on their for the sake of this tradition.

3. Make the Jug bigger. There’s only one reasonable way to do this, and tossing this beauty back on the potters wheel and into the kiln isn’t it.

Per Ryan Forrey, the master potter at The Henry Ford/Greenfield Village, “You can’t re-fire the Jug.  The pot would go through extreme thermal-shock which could lead to the breaking of the Jug.”  Not good.

Forrey offered a possibility.  “The only thing can be done in my opinion is to make an additional ceramic base and epoxy the two parts together. The paint job would bring the piece together. Of course the additional section can be made to look seamless or it can be done like the Stanley Cup where the additions are obvious.”

This might look something like this:

Original photo Danny Moloshok/Getty Images

Interesting idea and heck, at some point you are going to run out of room no matter what you do unless it is expanded.  I just have trouble with changing the size of the jug – I’d almost rather lose some scores than violate the original shape of the jug.

4. Repaint the existing Score columns.  You could always do this and this will have to be done at some point anyway.  Part of the charm of the scores is that they are handpainted, and I think you could hold that tradition but make the just make the scores tiny.  Roughly speaking, if you could shrink the whole scheme by 50% you could theoretically cram another 92 scores on this beauty taking you to 2104 – awesome.   Further, if you shrink the size of the year and score, you could possibly fit another column or two between the logos adding potentially another 92 scores.

I remember that my electric football players were handpainted so I’m guessing they can squeeze many, many more scores on there.  This option would maintain the current design of the jug.

5.  Add new columns. I asked legendary equipment manager Jon Falk about this issue of running out of scores on the jug earlier this year.  He had no clear answer so I assume nothing’s been decided.   Falk did gesture toward the open space above one of the logos and suggested that additional scores could be inserted there.  He’s right of course; there’s plenty of room.

There are a few ways you can go with it – you could have a single column or you could go two more columns and run them down above and even below each of the M logos.  Here’s what it might look like:


This method buys you a lot of time as well.  If you follow the representation above, you just added 22 scores on either side for 44 total.  This would cover the rivalry until 2057 if the teams play every season after they resume in 2011.   If you got aggressive you could probably squeeze eight additional scores in there without touching the logos, taking you to 2065.

6. Retire the existing Jug. [Added 10/13 based on the comments from the readers].  The question of who would get to keep the old jug would be raised, and if it’s a zero sum game you have to give the nod to Michigan.  Perhaps the Michigan replica, likely a very old piece anyway, could be repainted and put into service for the next 92 games.   But I really don’t like this idea.

The rivalry isn’t about playing for “a jug”–it’s about playing for THIS jug, the one left behind in 1903.  Maybe the tradition of playing all these years makes that secondary but don’t you think it’s cool that they (allegedly) play for the same crock that Tommy Roberts bought for Yost back in 1903?   Man, I sure do.

My take
I actually went into this post thinking option #4 was the only way to go.  But I’d be open to option #5 after pondering my crude representation.  Eventually you’ll have to go down route 4 but adding the new space for scores (above) will push off that move for a couple generations.  I can live with it.


  1. Adding the extra segments like you show is the way to go.

    That’s assuming, of course, that the world doesn’t end in 2012.

  2. What if they were to go way back to the earliest tradition and the winner each year whitewashes the jug and paints it whatever they want. Make it the Rock of Jugs.

  3. @TravelingBlue
    Well, I don’t think you can wipe off the old scores, but — I could see, when it fills up, making a space that is designated for the winner to paint. Maybe that’s the solution a century from now.

  4. You could just make another jug. Both get passed on when you win the game.

  5. Great series Greg! Looking forward to the book!

    I like Craig’s idea of creating a new jug, but since it was our jug to begin with, I think we should keep the original. We also have a replica, which we could update with later scores thru 2012 (IIRC from seeing it in Towsley Sports Museum, the replica currently stops at 1987), and give it permanently to Minnesota for their museum. We would keep the original, Minny would keep the updated replica, and a new jug, starting with 2013, and designed to carry more scores, would be exchanged to solve the problem for the next 100+ years.

    What do you say, Greg?

  6. I think making a new jug to replicate the original would be the way to go. Why didnt you post that as an option? I like that scenario much better than adding anything to the current jug or repainting the jug. I really would hate to see anything changed about one of the oldest trophies in college football

  7. Guys, I appreciate the take and the push for the “new jug” and you’ve convinced me that it should have been listed as an option. But I don’t support it. Keep in mind this jug has been painted quite a few times, and they’ve reconfigured how the scores are laid out as well. It used to have one column down each side then eventually added two.

    The jug, (specifically this jug, at least as far as people know), IS the rivarly. It’s over 106 years old. Retiring is would be retiring part of the tradition. It’s not just that they play for “a jug”, they play for this jug.

  8. Do you know who’s responsibilty it is to write the final score on the jug? You can really distinguish when someone new has taken over with the pen/brush.

  9. It’s up to the winning team to get someone to come in. When Michigan wins it they have a local artist who comes in to do it.

  10. – Fill out the remaining scores

    – Keep the jug the way it is, and have it on hand for the winners to parade around

    – Make an extension, like your mock-up, that acts as the “base,” and is kept in the trophy case, and given to the winners, but not attached, or taken to the stadium.

    That way, you can add rings to it, like the Stanley Cup, but you don’t mess with the jug itself.

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  14. I’m voting for #4, a repaint of the scores. This has been done in the past…i.e. the 1932 score that is currently on the jug is not the one that was originally painted on as part of the post game victory activities. The link below has a pic of Oscar Munson with the jug having only a single column of scores on the non-handle side and the scores/years a skinnier in height than they now appear.


  15. Greg, what’s your take on the different “M”innesota logos in the pic at


    The current jug has much smaller serifs than the one that Oscar is painting on; or does Oscar have the Minnesota replica in hand?

  16. Obviously no scheme based on the existing pattern can be continued for ever. As currently configured, the jug is sort of like the Mayan calender, built to exhaust itself after a certain point.

    Why do the new scores have to follow the existing pattern? Why not utilize the remaining “dead” space, as proposed in #5, but make the cells small enough for, whatever, another 500 years or so. Start right away to utilize the symbolism of a “new beginning” after the two-year hiatus; I presume M and M are playing every year here on out.

  17. @bjk
    “As currently configured, the jug is sort of like the Mayan calender, built to exhaust itself after a certain point.” << Love this