One of Michigan’s longest-standing conference games now has a trophy to go along with it. This past February, it was announced Michigan and Northwestern would commemorate their history together with the George Jewett Trophy. George Jewett was the first Black player to play for both programs and the Big Ten. Jewett was the leading rusher, scorer and kicker during his time with the Wolverines. In 1892 alone he scored 298 points for the Maize and Blue, becoming “one of Michigan’s greatest stars” of the time.
His success on the field wasn’t the only thing he excelled at. He attended both schools to study medicine and ultimately gained his medical degree from Northwestern before returning to Ann Arbor. His significance to both programs reflects what both schools hold dear to themselves. Northwestern is the only private school in the Big Ten and ranks among the top schools in the country. Michigan is regularly cited as one of the top public universities in the country. Their success is built by people like Jewett. It’s only fitting these two schools will fight for a trophy that represents the best on the field and in the classroom.
While attending Michigan, no matter what happened out on the field, my fellow classmates and I knew at least we were the superior school academically. Northwestern is the only institution in the conference where this wouldn’t be the case. We can’t fall back on the tride and true retort of “our academics are better” because Northwestern is the only Big Ten school that outranks Michigan.
The true nerds of the Big Ten had their first meeting on the gridiron in 1892. Jewett led the Wolverines with a field goal, while also playing offense and defense, before the team ultimately fell to the Wildcats 10-8. Jewett transferred to Northwestern in 1893 and had the lone touchdown for the Wildcats in their loss to Michigan that same year.
The history between these two schools isn’t as balanced as some of Michigan’s other rivalries, with Michigan leading the series 58-15-2. Most who attend the school today barely see Northwestern as a rival in football. Perhaps the purpose of introducing a rivalry trophy is to combine the storied history between these schools together again while providing something to fight for. What better way to do that than dedicate the trophy to a man that embodies both universities’ competitiveness on and off the field? Do you think this is the case? If not, what do you think the purpose of the George Jewett Trophy will serve between these two schools?
I think the George Jewett Trophy serves to rekindle the rivalry on the gridiron. While the animosity between these schools will never match that of Michigan vs. Ohio State or Michigan State, this game with Northwestern just got a new meaning. Do you think, eventually, this trophy will be on par with some of Michigan’s other trophy games? Or will it take on something different? Minnesota and Michigan have been playing for the Little Brown Jug since Michigan and Northwestern first played each other. Obviously the newness around the George Jewett Trophy doesn’t have a storied history yet. So what do you think the story could be? Maybe the trophy, besides encapsulating the man Jewett was, could also be a place of bragging rights. Not only does the team that wins get the trophy, but they get to claim they are the better school. That could definitely give a new incentive for the two to fight over.
There are multiple ways to interpret what the trophy will mean to the teams. He was the type of man who both schools want representing them because he was a competitor on the field and in the classroom. It’s almost surprising he isn’t represented more on campus.
I think this trophy is a start to commemorating his legacy at the University of Michigan. From here on out, people will ask about who the man this trophy represents and gives Michigan and Northwestern fans alike something to be proud of. I think a legacy game will be reborn and, as a fan and alum myself, I think they chose a very fitting man to represent and play for.
What do you think this trophy could mean to you as a Michigan fan? What kind of legacy do you think it can have for future Wolverines? Let us know in the comments below!