Indiana football has its fair share of big games remaining on the schedule this season, including a home sellout against No. 7 Ohio State and a regular season finale with rival Purdue. But on Homecoming, the Hoosiers will play for more than just a win and bragging rights.
In Saturday’s game against No. 11 Michigan State, the Old Brass Spittoon is on the line, a trophy played for annually when the Hoosiers take on the Spartans. The two teams will battle for the 68th time on Oct. 16, and for the 64th time in the history of the series, the winner will take home the trophy.
The 1950 season was Michigan State’s first in the Big Ten, which was then known as the Western Conference. Michigan State was ranked No. 13 in the nation prior to their matchup with Indiana, having defeated the University of Notre Dame 36-33 in South Bend, Indiana, the week prior.
Going into the game, Michigan State junior class president Gene McDermott was afraid of the Spartans falling against the Hoosiers. To raise the stakes of the contest for his team, McDermott purchased an 1800s spittoon at an antique shop in Lansing for $25 to serve as the game’s trophy.
After sending a telegram to the Indiana student senate, the trophy became official, and since 1950, the game’s winner has taken home the Old Brass Spittoon.
The Big Ten has its fair share of odd trophies, from the Floyd of Rosedale, a bronze pig given to the winner of the Minnesota-Iowa game and to the Illibuck, a small, wooden turtle for the victor of the Ohio State-Illinois game, but none are quite like the Old Brass Spittoon.
“There’s no other way to describe it other than how weird it is,” Eli McKown, Sports Editor at The State News, Michigan State’s student newspaper, said. “I love it, personally. I don't think there's a single person that really views it as that much of a rivalry, but it's become very interesting over the last few years as Indiana has been trending up.”
Historically, the trophy has called East Lansing, Michigan, home far more than Bloomington. Michigan State holds a 48-17-2 advantage over Indiana in the series. After the Spartans won 10 out of 11 matchups between 2007 and 2019, the Hoosiers brought the trophy back to Memorial Stadium last season, winning 24-0 at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing.
“We sat down at the beginning of the year with our leadership council to come up with our goals, and one of the major things the guys wanted was to win our trophy games,” Indiana head coach Tom Allen said after last year’s win. “We won our first trophy game. We hadn’t beaten them since I’ve been the head coach here.”
While Indiana has struggled against Michigan State since their first matchup in 1922, the homecoming matchup with the No. 11-ranked Spartans will be a chance for the Hoosiers not just to take home the Old Brass Spittoon in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1969, but to turn around a season that has fallen below expectations.
“This upcoming game is a massive one for Indiana,” McKown said. “I feel like if they want to have that kind of season that they've been looking for, this is a must-win.”