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Telephone Trophy – Football Game Between the Mizzou Tigers and Iowa State University Cyclones

The Telephone Trophy is the name of the traveling trophy given every year to the winner of the college football game played between the University of Missouri (Mizzou or MU for short) and the Iowa State University Cyclones (often abbreviated ISU). The history of this coveted award known as the Telephone Trophy dates back to the year 1959.

The physical nature of the Telephone Trophy is that of a rotary phone from a bygone era. As opposed to a touch tone phone with buttons the rotary style of early phones has as circular turn style that is used to dial numbers. Before the proliferation of touch tone phones the rotary phone was a more time consuming way to place calls. The receiver, portion of the rotary phone used for listening, is colored half red (Iowa State color) and half yellow (Mizzou color). On the base of the Telephone Trophy are the engraved scores of every game played for the traveling trophy between Iowa State University and the MU.

The University of Missouri is located in Columbia, Missouri. This predominately college town is centrally located in the state of Missouri. Iowa State University is located in Ames, Iowa which is centrally located within that state. A distance of 275 miles separates the two schools. The 275 miles between the two college campuses can normally be covered in a car in between four and a half and five hours.

While both the Mizzou football program and the Cyclones are both members of the Big 12 Conference (and in fact both members of the Big Twelve North sub-division) the two colleges are not normally associated as rival institutions the way other more prominent rivalries are. The origin of the Telephone Trophy has more to do with an odd story than an actual hated rivalry.

When these two schools played each other in 1959 there were some complications with the telephone systems that were used to allow coaches on the field to communicate with coaches upstairs in the coaches boxes (a perched position that allows for great visibility of the entire field from an aerial perspective). Standard practice dictates that Missouri coaches on the field would have closed access to communicate with Missouri coaches in the box and Iowa State coaches on the field would have closed access to communicate with Iowa State coaches in their box. Up until just before the game kicked off coaches from both teams were able to listen in on communications from the other team. The wiring mishap was correctly right before the game started. To commemorate and make light up the mix up the service provider in the area (Northwestern Bell) had a trophy made in honor of the incident. That trophy would become the traveling Telephone Trophy for decades to come.

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