Old, important chant: Ski-U-Mah
Back in 1884, a pair of Minnesota rugby players came up with this chant (pronounced sky-you-mah) to yell during games. The word "Ski" means victory in Sioux and "U-Mah" stands for the University of Minnesota. Due to the popularity of the chant, it has been incorporated into the lyrics of both the school song "Hail Minnesota" as well as the fight song "Minnesota Rouser."
Award-winning, head-spinning mascot: Goldy Gopher
Without Goldy Gopher, I don't think Minnesota athletics would be able to function. Labeled "[t]he most diverse and complete multi-sport athlete at the University of Minnesota," Goldy has an impressive list of accomplishments (if you have a minute, read the whole page, it's fun), including first place finishes at the UCA Mascot National Championships in 2011 and 2013. Outside of competition, he's apparently an avid golfer as he's "won 17 cars thanks to golfing hole-in-one's, but has donated them all to the Showcase Showdown on the Price is Right." So not only is he talented, he's also humble and charitable.
On game day in Minneapolis, the party doesn't start until Goldy performs his ultimate feat: SPIN YOUR HEAD GOLDY! Now, I'll be honest, it sounded a lot cooler until I watched the video and Goldy only performed one spin. I was expecting his head to rotate like a basketball on the fingertip of a Harlem Globetrotter, but one spin seems to be enough for the Minnesota faithful.
Goldy's been firing up fans in person since '52, and due to overwhelming support, a bronze statue of his likeness was unveiled last September. This might seem like a lot for a mascot, but Goldy isn't just someone in a furry suit to Minnesota fans. He's not just a promoter of Minnesota athletics but essentially an ambassador for the entire school. That's pretty awesome, and it's making me a little jealous that Michigan doesn't have something similar.
Why are the gophers in Minnesota so golden?
In the early 30s, Halsey Hall - a legendary sports broadcaster the Minneapolis area whose name is synonymous with the famous baseball call "Holy Cow!" (he did it before Harry Caray) - referred to Minnesota's football team as the "Golden Gophers" for the first time due to their "all-gold attire on the field." Around this time, Minnesota football rose to the top and stayed their for almost a decade. From 1933 to 1941, Minnesota lost a total of 12 games (four of those coming during 1939 - the only down year during this span), won seven Big Ten titles, and captured five National Championships. Complete domination. The fact that this "golden" era of Minnesota football coincided with the coining of the "Golden Gopher" nickname makes reflecting on this time all the more special for Minnesota fans.
Two legendary coaches: Bernie Bierman and Henry L. Williams
Williams led the Gophers through the first period of success in the football program's history. From 1900-21, Minnesota took the Big Ten eight times and won their first National Championship in 1904. Williams accumulated an impressive 136-33-11 (.786) record in his time at Minnesota and gave the program a taste of prolonged triumph.
Following Williams, Minnesota had a lackluster decade before Bierman stepped in and dominated the college football landscape. I mentioned his coaching period in the previous section, but I'll reiterate it here: seven Big Ten titles and five National Championships, and a total of 12 losses from 1932-41. He returned to Minnesota to coach from 1945-50 but failed to regain his former success. He finished his time in Minneapolis with a 93-35-6 (.727).
Slab of Bacon Paul Bunyan's Axe vs. Wisconsin Badgers
These two teams first met in 1890 (and the Gophers crushed the Badgers 63-0, the biggest win in series history), but a trophy wasn't introduced into the rivalry game until 1930. From '30 to '43, Minnesota and Wisconsin battled for the "Slab of Bacon" trophy, which was literally a wooden slab with the word "Bacon" on both ends and an "M" or "W" in the center, depending on which direction you held it. After being lost, the slab was replaced by the current trophy - "Paul Bunyan's Axe" - in 1948. (EDIT: Credit to GoAUpher for pointing out that the slab was not lost forever, but rather "Those thieving thieves at UW thieved it with their thieving ways. Jerks."). For a while, Minnesota held a fairly commanding lead in the series record, but with Wisconsin's current ten-game winning streak dating back to '04, Minnesota's lead has narrowed to 59-56-8 in the Minnesota-Wisconsin football rivalry.
So that's all for Minnesota. If I missed anything important, let me know. I almost want to root for the Golden Gophers one day just to wear one of these bad boys.