In the fall of 1909, the Minneapolis Tribune sponsored a contest seeking a new school song for the University of Minnesota. According to the rules, the song “must be light, without being flippant or slangy, and the music should be fairly fast and suitable for large gatherings.” A chance at the $100 prize drew more than 90 contestants from across the country.

The winner: a Minneapolis choir director named Floyd Hutsell. The winning song: “Minnesota, Hats Off to Thee.” Football fans heartily embraced the tune a few weeks later at a snow-covered Northrop Field. Alas, despite a gritty effort, the Gophers fell to Michigan 15-6.      

“Minnesota Rouser” trivia: One of the songs entered in the contest was withdrawn at the last minute and instead offered to the University of Wisconsin, where it became known as “On, Wisconsin!” – with the lyrics “Minnesota, Minnesota” changed to “On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!” 

"U" Song Prize Won
By Floyd M. Hutsell

Victor, Lying on Sickbed,
Hears With Joy His

Governor Sings Songs to
Decide Which Should Get Palm.

Mill City Composer’s An-
them Selected Out of
Field of 100.


Floyd M. Hutsell, 3041 Harriet avenue, was declared victor in the university song contest yesterday, when the judges met to decide who, out of 100 candidates who had tuned their lyres for the occasion, should be given the honor of furnishing the University of Minnesota with its athletic song. The triumph also brought to Mr. Hutsell the prize of $100 offered for the sweetest singer, and his double triumph was announced to him last night by the Tribune.

Mr. Hutsell’s song was chosen because it presented the best combination of words and music. The air is light and catchy, easily adapted to band music, and can be learned without much effort. It will be published in The Tribune of next Sunday, with the words and music complete, and Professor Scott will train the university singers to greet the Minnesota eleven with the strains of Mr. Hutsell’s song when they meet the Michigan men on Northrop field, Nov. 20.

Proclaim Victor on Tuesday.

  Sheet music for the new song accompanied every copy of the Tribune distributed six days before the Michigan game.
A mass meeting will be held at the university Tuesday evening, when Mr. Hutsell will be formally proclaimed as the victor in the contest. Arrangements will at once be made to have the song copyrighted in President Northrop’s name.

On the whole, the judges seemed well pleased with the songs offered to the contest. Meet of them showed a good appreciation of music, and several would make good college songs. What some of them seemed to lack most, however, was harmony of word with sound, and in several instances where the words seemed suitable the song had to be rejected because of the indifferent music to which they were attuned.

It was a difficult problem which confronted the judges when they met at the home of President Northrop to decide who was best entitled to the wreath of glory. Nearly 100 had entered the contest, and the offerings included the productions of cantors from as far as New York. Naturally, Minnesota had the greatest number of representatives, and joy thrilled the hearts of the judges when they found, after careful investigation, that a Minneapolis man was deemed worthy of the prize.


Governor Sings Songs.

One of the conditions of the song was that each competitor should furnish a complete song with arrangement and words completely harmonized. The judges found it easy enough to determine what song presented the most suitable array of words, but it was a little more difficult to pass on the harmony and the “magic of sweet sounds.” Then it was that Governor Eberhart showed that he was in addition to a statesman and a humorist, asinger of mor than ordinary ability. He sweetly sng the words of many of the songs to the accompaniment of Pressor Carlyl Scott on the piano. President Northrop, too, showed that he was something of a vocalist, and frequently “prexy” could be heard gently humming one of the melodies which the judges were considering.

Many of the songs lacked that light and airy thrill which is essential to a popular college melody. In this Mr. Hutsell far outclassed most of his rivals, while the music set more than one of the adjudicators skipping merrily.

Governor Eberhart was chairman of the committee of judges. With him were President Northrop, Porf. Carlyle Scott, head of the department of music, J.A. Sende, chief musician of the university band, and Arthur Allen, president of the Glee and Mandolin clubs of the University of Minnesota.

Winner Lies on Sick Bed.

Mr. Hutsell’s triumph was announced to him as he lay suffering from an acute attack of nervousness at his home on Harriet avenue. Great was his joy when told that he had carried off the prize in the university song contest. “I have written many songs in my time,” he said, “but I deem this my greatest triumph.” While he has been in Minneapolis less than three years, he has made a name for himself as one of its most promising young cantors. He is leader of the choir of the First M. E. church and also tunes the vocal strings of the choristers at the Oliver Presbyterian church. He prepared the choir of the Immaculate Conception church for its production last spring of the “Chimes of Normandy,” and coached its members for “Sylvia,” which they gave the preceding year.

Mr. Hutsell is only 27, was born at Sioux City, Iowa, and studied music in Chicago. “But I regard Minneapolis as my home,” he said, “and I am proud that I have written a song which will furnish the University of Minnesota with its athletic melody.”

The 1909 University of Minnesota football team finished 6-1, the only blemish a loss to mighty Michigan.


Spectators filled the stands at the University of Minnesota's Northrop Field on a chilly fall afternoon in 1909. (Photo courtesy


The University of Wisconsin marching band played at Northrop Field in 1910. The band added "On, Wisconsin!" to its repertoire the year before, at a game against Minnesota at Camp Randall stadium. (Photo courtesy


Older Post

Time marches on

Newer Post

Nov. 20, 1899: Crazed by a fierce infection