Iowa professor knew Floyd in the flesh

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 28, 2012 - 8:26 AM

Sandy Boyd, a St. Paul native who later taught at Iowa, has divided loyalties and fond memories of a famous pig.

Cast in bronze and perched atop a stout wooden pedestal, Floyd of Rosedale has inspired thousands of young men to fight for him each fall. To the football fans of Iowa and Minnesota, the trophy is as coveted and as legendary as the Holy Grail, a treasured prize in a rivalry that runs far beyond sports.

To an 8-year-old boy in 1935, the real Floyd was somewhat less impressive. "He just looked like a pig to me,'' said Sandy Boyd, one of the few souls still alive who viewed Floyd in the flesh. And yet, Boyd -- a St. Paul native who grew up to become a professor and later president of the University of Iowa -- was not surprised to see the Hampshire hog become an icon, one he came to cherish himself from both sides of the border.

Boyd, now 85, will watch on TV Saturday as the Gophers and Hawkeyes battle over Floyd in their Big Ten Conference opener in Iowa City. He saw the living, breathing version awarded to Minnesota Gov. Floyd B. Olson in a 1935 ceremony at the State Capitol, the payoff for a bet made with Iowa Gov. Clyde Herring on the Gophers' game against Iowa. Later, he visited the pig at the U's agricultural campus, where Boyd's father, Willard, was a professor.

Floyd did not live there for long. He was sold and died of cholera in 1936. But the slogan on the 1936 Gophers homecoming button that Boyd still owns -- "Hog-Tie the Hawkeyes'' -- shows he was already on his way to cult status.

"I was curious when I heard the governor had bet a pig and the pig had arrived,'' said Boyd, who still teaches courses in law and business at Iowa. "I went down there on a streetcar to take a look at it. It was a big deal. And it's gotten to be a much bigger deal in the years since.''

That was borne out in the Gophers' preparations last week. Consecutive victories over Iowa have kept Floyd in their possession for two years, and in the days before Saturday's game the trophy resided in their locker room.

Coach Jerry Kill emphasized its importance to the state as well as to the university, but he didn't need to try very hard.

"I want to win this pig more than anything,'' said Gophers tight end John Rabe, a native of Iowa Falls, Iowa. "Growing up in Iowa, that was all I heard about was Iowa-Minnesota, the pig game. There's nothing like it.''

Boyd grew up idolizing Gophers stars of the 1930s such as Pug Lund and Bruce Smith. He recalls getting splinters from the seats at Memorial Stadium and seeing the big trophy games of the time, including the Little Brown Jug (Michigan) and the Slab of Bacon (Wisconsin, a trophy later replaced by Paul Bunyan's Axe).

As a youngster, Boyd didn't know the serious issue that prompted Olson to wager a prize pig on the outcome of the Gophers-Iowa game. The Hawkeyes said their star Ozzie Simmons, one of the few black players in the Big Ten, had been the victim of cheap shots in the Gophers' 48-12 victory in 1934. As tension between the teams and their fans rose before the 1935 rematch, Olson offered the bet as a way to calm things down.

The Gophers won 13-6 in a cleanly played game. Herring paid his bet with a hog from Rosedale Farm near Fort Dodge, Iowa -- named Floyd, after the Minnesota governor -- before a large crowd at the Capitol.

The pig wound up at the U, where Boyd looked in on him a few times while visiting his father. "He went into the herds at the department of animal husbandry,'' said Boyd, who earned two degrees at the U and practiced law in the Twin Cities before joining the Iowa faculty in 1954. "He wasn't as big as some of the pigs we have now, but he was bigger than the bronze. Then, suddenly, he wasn't there any more.''

Floyd remained in spirit, eventually becoming one of the best-known college football trophies in the nation. Boyd rooted for the Gophers to win him until taking the job at Iowa. Switching sides paid dividends as the Hawkeyes won 20 of 28 games in the series from 1982 to 2009, but the Gophers now are gunning for their first three-game winning streak against Iowa since 1998-2000.

No matter the outcome, Boyd said, he relishes his connection to a formative moment in the rivalry's history.

"I'm probably one of the few people living that saw Floyd alive,'' he said. "It's fun for me, because I treasure both universities.''

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