LINCOLN — One of the lighter-hearted moments of the Mike Riley era occurred in 2015, when the Huskers beat Minnesota 48-25 and Riley was handed a trophy consisting of a broken chair and a base. NU’s social media account then posted a picture of Riley holding the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy, a homemade trophy based on a Twitter comedy exchange between the Gophers’ mascot, Goldy, and Faux Pelini, college football’s best-known fake Twitter account.
The trophy was created in 2014, and Minnesota celebrated on the Huskers’ field with it after a 28-24 victory. Nebraska and Riley took it back in 2015. And then — it just disappeared. NU’s administration didn’t acknowledge the thing. It made no appearance at the 2016 game, won 24-17 by Nebraska.
But two Lincoln friends — Luke Petersen and David Moore — remade the trophy. And they intend for it to stick around — for a long time.
“We hope that, by next year, it is on the field at Memorial Stadium,” Petersen said.
It’ll be at Husker tailgates outside TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis this weekend, hauled around in a wagon, with a donation box for the two charities now affiliated with the trophy: the Team Jack Foundation and the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. A group of Husker and Gopher fans are behind it. Petersen doesn’t think they can smuggle the trophy into this game, but their hope, after a letter to new Nebraska Athletic Director Bill Moos, is that the trophy can find traction with both schools going forward. It’s a 20-pounder and in the vein of traditional, relatively inane Big Ten trophies, like those for an ax or a pig or a spittoon or a jug. This is a chair with a hole in it.
Petersen loved the idea from the first time he saw the trophy several years ago.
“It was completely preposterous,” he said, “and I liked that about it.”
Perhaps that’s what Nebraska’s athletic department — when led by Shawn Eichorst — didn’t love about it.
But the trophy stayed alive, in a sense, on the internet. Specifically, on Reddit’s college football subreddit board.
“Keeping the $5/Broken Chair trophy alive,” read a thread near the start of the 2017 season.
Moore approached Petersen one Sunday in church. Why not rebuild it? So they did at Innovation Studio on UNL’s city campus. They took pictures. They collaborated with fans at Minnesota, which has a Fan Advisory Board within the athletic department. They began the process of lining up charitable sponsors.
And then, on Sept. 21, they met with Nebraska’s athletic department inside Memorial Stadium. “No fewer than four associate athletic directors,” Petersen said.
“They said there wasn’t much they could do this year — because it was short notice — but they said, ‘Go ahead with the fundraising,’” Petersen said.
As the $5 Bits of Broken Chair Trophy folks left the double doors of North Stadium, they passed NU President Hank Bounds and UNL Chancellor Ronnie Green.
Eichorst was fired hours later.
“The athletic department had bigger things to worry about than a fan-made trophy,” Petersen said.
So, this week, a letter was sent to Moos. Petersen’s hope is that Moos and Nebraska will embrace the trophy — Minnesota’s willing if the Huskers are — and the $5 Bits of Broken Chair game is official by next season. There’s a website — brokenchairtrophy.com — set up for charitable donations.