Credit - IU Athletics

Nothing to spit at: IU football’s Tom Allen wants the Old Brass Spittoon — but what is it?

They’ve got it, and he wants it.

Tom Allen wants to melt down the Old Brass Spittoon and use it for any tooth fillings that become necessary after celebrations with his players.

You doubt it?  Watch Allen talk about his self-inflicted dental challenges.

While Allen may need to round up any spare alloys he can find to help with his mounting dental bills, he didn’t really say that he was going to melt down the Old Brass Spittoon.

We promise.

But Allen does want to obtain the trophy that has eluded him during his tenure as head coach at Indiana.

“Ton of respect for them (Michigan State) and the opportunity for us to play for the Brass Spittoon, which is a trophy game for us here that we have placed a high value on and have not been able to obtain that trophy since I have been the head coach here,” Allen said on Monday.

So why exactly is Allen so enthusiastic to get his hands on what amounts to an oversized spit cup?

First and foremost, because Michigan State doesn’t treat it right.

How dare they spit in a, well, a spittoon!

Truth be told, Allen is passionate about college football, and trophy game rivalries have been part of the sport since at least 1892.

Michigan State and Indiana’s Old Brass Spittoon is one of the more recently enacted trophy games, but it involves what is likely one of the oldest pieces of hardware.

According to the IU football media guide, The Old Brass Spittoon has been awarded to the winner of the Indiana-Michigan State football game since the trophy’s inception in 1950.  Initiated by the junior and senior classes and student council at Michigan State, the trophy was quickly accepted by the Indiana Student Senate.

A 2015 report by State News says that MSU junior class president Gene McDermott was looking for a way to keep the Spartans motivated after an emotional Oct. 28, 1950 36-33 win over Notre Dame.

Indiana had defeated the No. 11 Irish the week prior, setting up what appeared on paper to be a big test for the Spartans in East Lansing.

So McDermott wandered into a Lansing antique shop and found the spittoon.  It reportedly took $25 (more than $250 in today’s dollars) to pry the relic from the store owner and introduce the Old Brass Spittoon into the college football lore.

The spittoon came from one of Michigan’s earliest trading posts and is widely believed to be nearly 200 years old. Legend holds that the spittoon was around when both institutions were founded (Indiana – 1820, Michigan State – 1855).

The Old Brass Spittoon – Credit – IU Athletics

The spittoon is believed to have ties to both Michigan and Indiana residents long before it became a football trophy.  The story goes that people from both states passed by the trading post and used the spittoon while hunting and fishing in Michigan.

After McDermott’s purchase and acceptance by the Indiana Student Senate, the spittoon was engraved with the following:

The Old Brass Spittoon

Inaugurated by the students of

Michigan State College and Indiana University

November – 4 – 1950

Michigan State won that first game 35-0, and for the most part the Old Brass Spittoon hasn’t spent much time away from its home state.

The Spartans leads the all-time series when it comes to games played for the Spittoon, 48-13-1.  IU last possessed the traveling trophy after a 24-21 overtime win in 2016.

Just how bad does Allen want to reclaim the trophy and bring it home on the team plane on Saturday?

Last year he had a miniature in his pocket on game day, and he used it to motivate his players.

Allen has seen the real thing during his time at IU.

He was the defensive coordinator in 2016 when the spittoon last spent a year in Bloomington.

Allen’s defense was the key to that win, and he was named the head coach just months later.  But he had to hand the trophy back before he could get well acquainted with it.  It has been that way when it comes to the Old Brass Spittoon and Indiana.  The Hoosiers last possessed the trophy for consecutive years after a three season run that ended in 1969.

With his program on the rise, Allen is intent on changing that.  And step one is bringing it home on Saturday.

He promises he won’t melt it down, but Allen also won’t hide his enthusiasm for the Old Brass Spittoon.

“This is a big game for us now,” Allen said. “This is the biggest game of the season because it’s the next one. It’s a trophy game for us, and we understand that. We set down goals for the season, and this one is up there.”


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