Wine Online: A History Lesson on 'Floyd' - Hawkeye Sports Official Athletic Site
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Wine Online: A History Lesson on 'Floyd'
Former UI staffer shares a piece of the story behind the bronze pig
Iowa and Minnesota square off today for the chance to own 'Floyd of Rosedale' for the next year.
Iowa and Minnesota square off today for the chance to own 'Floyd of Rosedale' for the next year.
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Nov. 21, 2009

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    IOWA CITY, Iowa - It's a little-known fact that Floyd of Rosedale, the long-time traveling trophy that goes to the winner of Iowa's football game with Minnesota at Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, is a product of racism.

    The target of that racism was Ozzie Simmons, a star running back for the Hawkeyes in the mid-1930s when Hitler was spreading bigotry in Europe and the Ku Klux Klan was active in America. Not many African Americans were competing in college sports.


    One of the few blacks playing major college football was Simmons, As Iowa's best player, he was often the target of racial slurs and verbal abuse. Almost all opponents were guilty to some degree, but the worst was Minnesota.

    As the Gophers were preparing to visit Iowa in 1934, the Minneapolis Tribune ran an article that said, "Simmons is a Negro halfback who runs like a deer and has a knack of fading away from tacklers in a ghostlike manner."

    That was 75 years ago, and the Gophers were on their way to a national championship, They would no doubt have beaten Iowa without cruel and inhuman treatment to its black star, but wanting to ensure victory they knocked Simmons out of the game not once, not twice, but three times with late hits and cheap shots.

    He never played in the second half of a 48-12 Minnesota romp. One person who witnessed that game was Ed Benedict, who was in school with Simmons. In an interview several years ago he told me, "It was shameful the way Minnesota beat up on Ozzie. It was brutal and I felt sorry for him."

    Another witness was former President Ronald Reagan, then the play-by-play voice for WHO radio. "I remember some really hard and often late hits aimed at Ozzie," he told Jim Zabel, who later called Iowa games for WHO.

    Simmons himself recalled Minnesota as a great football team. "But they were blatant with their piling on and kneeing me. It was obvious, but the refs didn't call it. Some of our fans were so upset they wanted to come out on the field."

    The 1935 schedule brought Minnesota back to Iowa City, where Hawkeye fans were still fuming. Simmons was on his way to all-America honors and both teams were unbeaten. This season, Iowa was no pushover.





    One of the few blacks playing major college football was Simmons, As Iowa's best player, he was often the target of racial slurs and verbal abuse. Almost all opponents were guilty to some degree, but the worst was Minnesota.

    As the Gophers were preparing to visit Iowa in 1934, the Minneapolis Tribune ran an article that said, "Simmons is a Negro halfback who runs like a deer and has a knack of fading away from tacklers in a ghostlike manner."



    The week before the game Iowa Governor Clyde Herring issued a statement that predicted a Hawkeye victory and contained an inflammatory warning: "If officials stand for any rough tactics like Minnesota used on Ozzie Simmons last year, I'm sure the crowd will not."

    In essence, he promised a public mugging if the Gophers didn't behave. Simmons was both surprised and embarrassed by the governor's threat. "He was clearly telling the Gophers, `We're coming out of the stands to get you.' I wasn't proud of that. I just wanted to play football."

    When Minnesota Coach Bernie Bierman asked for a police guard, Governor Herring threatened to end relations between the two universities. Newspapers in both states ran big, bold headlines usually reserved for declaration of war.

    Fortunately, a cooler head resided in the Minnesota governor's office. Governor Floyd Olson tried to calm things down with this telegram to Governor Herring in Des Moines:

    "Minnesota fans are excited over your statement about the Iowa crowd lynching the Minnesota football team. I have assured them that you are a law-abiding gentleman only trying to get our goat. The Minnesota team will tackle hard but clean. Clyde, if you seriously think Iowa has a chance to win, I will bet you a Minnesota prize hog against an Iowa prize hog. You are getting odds because Minnesota produces better hogs than Iowa."

    Fortunately, Herring was smart enough to accept the friendly wager and quit making threats. "It was an unusual way to calm things down," said Simmons. "We had one of the best games I ever played in. Everyone played clean and hard and honest."

    After Minnesota won 13-6, the Minneapolis Tribune reported, "Never have we heard so much praise for an opposing player as the Gophers had for Ozzie Simmons."

    Paying off his debt, Governor Herring delivered a prize pig named Floyd of Rosedale to Governor Olson, who gave it to the University of Minnesota and commissioned sculptor Charles Brioscho to capture Floyd's image.

    The bronze statue of Floyd has resided in the Iowa football complex the last two years, following two Hawkeye victories. Saturday it will be sitting on the Iowa sideline at Kinnick Stadium for the winner to claim.

    If you are at the game and get a glimpse of the trophy, or see it while watching the game on TV, pause to remember Ozzie Simmons, who died nine years ago at age 87. He is a member of Iowa's all-time team and a charter member of the UI Varsity Club Hall of Fame.

    Wearing a black and gold uniform 75 years ago, he played an important role in integrating college football. He is the reason Iowa and Minnesota compete annually for a bonze pig named Floyd of Rosedale.

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