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July 29, 2011

Nebraska, Iowa rivalry named 'The Heroes Game'

CHICAGO - After months of speculation and countless ideas and suggestions of what exactly to bill Nebraska's newfound football rivalry with Iowa, the two schools finally came to an agreement.

On Friday, just prior to Day 2 of Big Ten Media Days at the Hyatt Regency McCormick, it was announced that the annual post-Thanksgiving contest would now be referred to as "The Heroes Game", which will honor one citizen from Iowa and Nebraska who performed an "extraordinary act."

The "heroes" for each school will nominated by friends, family and co-workers, and those chosen will be honored on-field during the game and have their name and hometown added to the trophy.

While the actually trophy is still being designed and likely won't be revealed until the first Iowa-Nebraska game on Nov. 25 in Lincoln, the idea behind "The Heroes Game" had both schools excited to be a part of the series.

"I don't know what the trophy is going to look like," Nebraska athletic director Tom Osborne said. "We got all sorts of suggestions, and most of them had to do with ears of corn or something like that. Some of them got really out of hand. So I think this will be really good, and I'm really delighted that they're going to recognize some people who have done some extraordinary things, and I think it will really capture the essence of the Heartland."

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta echoed Osborne's approval, saying the theme of the game was a perfect fit for the natural rivalry between the Huskers and the Hawkeyes.

"It was clear to me as soon as Nebraska was announced as the newest member that it goes beyond just the games throughout both our states," Barta said. "The passion of our fan bases, we're very similar culturally, and so there was just this slow excitement."

For Nebraska, the game represents their first official rivalry since leaving the Big 12 Conference over the summer and joining the Big Ten. Osborne pointed out that the Huskers did have a trophy game with Missouri - The Victory Bell - but admitted the actual trophy never really held much meaning for him.

"The Big Ten is a very traditional league, with a lot of rivalries and trophies," Osborne said. "In the Big 12, probably not so much. We had a trophy with Missouri, and frankly I don't think I've ever seen the trophy. I don't know what it's called. So this is a little bit new to us, but I think it's a good thing."

While talking about rivalries, Osborne added that he felt Iowa and Nebraska were not only natural rivals, but that the series would be far more respectful than some of the others "rivalries" the Huskers had in the Big 12. In particular, the one against the other black and gold team west of Lincoln.

"We had a couple of what you would call rivalry games at Nebraska, one of them probably was not so healthy," Osborne said. "It wasn't our choosing, somebody decided they were our rival. As a result, it got a little bit nasty at times. I never really did quite understand that, because my acquaintance with a rivalry was with Oklahoma and that happened rather naturally… I think this will be the same type of thing."



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