Separated by just 54 miles, Texas State and UTSA share one of the most under-appreciated rivalries in college football. While the most fierce active rivalry in Texas may not feature the best football you’ll be able to see on any given Saturday, the hatred runs deep on each side of the I-35 Showdown. The two teams have only met on the field twice but both games have seen huge turnouts, as over 39,000 fans filled the Alamodome in 2012 and over 31,000 fans showed up to Bobcat Stadium in 2017, an over-capacity crowd.
Recognizing the regional interest in the budding rivalry, Texas-based mega-grocer HEB purchased naming rights for the rivalry, ensuring that the game will continue to be played on an annual basis for the foreseeable future.
While the rivalry between the two teams is noteworthy, the trophy that the winner receives after each game... isn’t.
If you remove the branding on the plaque, this trophy could easily pass as an office heirloom for the annual fantasy football champion. The current trophy is in no way unique to the Central Texas region and I doubt many fans could even conjure up a mental image of the trophy without a visual aid. This rivalry deserves better.
The beauty and joy of college football lies in the unique regional rivalries that pits friends and neighbors against one another. Traveling trophies are a major part of the allure of these rivalries. Texas State fans are no stranger to this as the Bobcats waged war against Nicholls State in the Battle for the Paddle for decades.
An interesting trophy can work wonders for a budding college football rivalry. The $5 Bits of Broken Chair trophy might be the best example.
After Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, the Huskers found themselves without much tradition to share among their new conference foes. That strangely and abruptly changed in 2012 after an exchange between a parody Bo Pelini account and a Minnesota mascot on Twitter birthed the $5 Bits of Broken Chair trophy. Now the two schools play for possession of the trophy as well as bragging rights. It’s weird, it’s goofy, it’s college football.
An unidentified UTSA fan has stepped up to lead the charge for a better I-35 Showdown trophy. Hosted on Change.org, a petition has appeared to urge UTSA Athletic Director Lisa Campos, Texas State Athletic Director Larry Teis, and the HEB Public Affairs office to unveil a new trophy for the rivalry — a golden HEB shopping cart.
In all honesty, this is a fantastic idea. Fans of both programs shop at (and love) HEB so a shopping cart trophy doesn’t favor one school over the other like a golden taco or a golden inner tube would over-represent San Antonio or San Marcos, respectively.
The shopping cart presents a fantastic marketing opportunity for HEB and would surely create a wonderful photo opportunity for the press after each meeting in the series. In contrast, I haven’t been able to find a single picture of the UTSA Roadrunners holding up last year’s trophy after their victory over the Bobcats in 2017.
Imagine the sheer joy of watching a 300 pound defensive lineman hunched up in a shopping cart, getting pushed across the turf by his teammates after sealing the game with a sack.
Take a second to picture a head coach getting dunked into the shopping cart by his players following a post-game
Gatorade HEB Quench™ bath. These are the moments that make college football so special. They are within reach for UTSA and Texas State.
While the Change.org petition only has 13 signatures at the time of this writing, it’s a campaign that deserve support. It’s time to mold a trophy that both fanbases can be proud to display inside their facilities.