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

The physical nature of the Telephone Trophy is that of a rotary telephone from a bygone era. Unlike a push-button touch-tone telephone, the rotary style of early telephones has a circular twist style used for dialing numbers. Before the proliferation of touch-tone phones, the rotary phone was a more time-consuming way of making calls. The receiver, part of the rotary phone used for listening, is colored half red (Iowa state color) and half yellow (Mizzou color). Engraved on the base of the Telephone Trophy are the scores of each traveling trophy game played between Iowa State University and MU.

The University of Missouri is located in Columbia, Missouri. This predominantly college town is located in the center of 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 university campuses can normally be covered in a car in four and a half to five hours.

While both Mizzou’s football program and the Cyclones are members of the Big 12 Conference (and, in fact, both members of the Big Twelve North subdivision), the two universities are not normally associated as rival institutions as other rivalries are. most prominent. The origin of the Telephone Trophy has more to do with a strange story than with a hated real rivalry.

When these two schools played each other in 1959, there were some complications with the telephone systems that were used to allow the coaches on the field to communicate with the coaches above in the coaches’ boxes (a perched position that allows great visibility of the entire field from an Aerial Perspective). Standard practice dictates that the Missouri coaches on the field would have closed access to communicate with the Missouri coaches in the box and the Iowa State coaches on the field would have closed access to communicate with the Iowa State coaches in their box. Until just before the game began, the coaches of both teams were able to listen in on the other team’s communications. The wiring mishap was corrected just before the game started. To commemorate and clear up the confusion, the service provider in the area (Northwestern Bell) made a trophy in honor of the incident. That trophy would become the Traveling Telephone Trophy for decades to come.

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