IOWA CITY — Sandy Boyd grew up a Minnesota Gophers fan in the 1930s near Minnesota’s agricultural campus in the same St. Paul neighborhood as vaunted head coach Bernie Bierman.
Boyd’s father, Willard Boyd, served as head for the University of Minnesota’s department of veterinary medicine and was an active member of Minnesota’s Senate Faculty Committee on Athletics. Boyd attended numerous Minnesota sporting events with his father and especially cheered on the football team.
So when Boyd heard about a football wager between Iowa Gov. Clyde Herring and Minnesota counterpart Floyd Olson, you can bet the future University of Iowa president was interested. As an 8-year-old, Boyd wanted to see the spoils of Olson’s successful gamble, a 200-pound Hampshire pig renamed Floyd of Rosedale. So he took a streetcar by himself to the Minnesota State Capitol building in St. Paul and watched the ceremony in person.
“We followed Minnesota athletics very carefully in the ‘30s,” said Boyd, now 87 and still a law professor at the University of Iowa. “I was very aware of the bet between Governor Herring and Governor Olson. So when Floyd was being presented by Governor Herring to Governor Olson on the state house steps in St. Paul, I took the streetcar down there and watched.”
Iowa and Minnesota engaged in several rough football games in that era. In 1934, Minnesota rushed for 514 yards and overpowered Iowa 48-12 in Iowa City. The Gophers won the national title and outscored opponents 270-38 that year.
Iowa’s best player was Ozzie Simmons, an African-American running back from Texas and a second-team All-American. Simmons left the game three times with injuries, leading many reporters and fans to speculate that he was targeted by Minnesota players because of his race.
The feud boiled over the next 12 months. The day before the teams’ 1935 game — which also was staged in Iowa City — Herring reportedly said, “If the officials stand for any rough tactics like Minnesota used last year, I’m sure the crowd won’t.” That whipped Minnesota state officials into a frenzy, accusing the Iowa governor of inciting a riot. Minnesota Coach Bernie Bierman said he would sever relations with Iowa if the situation escalated.
Olson, however, tried to diffuse the incident as a misunderstanding. He sent a telegram to Herring and wagered a Minnesota prize hog against an Iowa prize hog. Herring accepted the bet.
In front of a record crowd of 52,000 at then-Iowa Stadium, Minnesota rallied to beat Iowa 13-6 in a hard-fought, yet clean, football game on Nov. 9, 1935. Herring sought a prize hog, and Allen Loomis of Rosedale Farms near Fort Dodge donated the brother of “Blue Boy,” which starred in the 1933 movie “State Fair.” Both the hog and Herring arrived in St. Paul early that Wednesday morning.
“I saw him hand over the pig,” Boyd said. “The pig came out to the agricultural campus where my father was in veterinary medicine.”
Olson gave the pig to 14-year-old Robert Jones of Austin, Minn. as part of an essay contest. Jones sold the pig back to the university, where it resided for most of the winter.
Boyd lived within a few miles of the agricultural campus, which separated his neighborhood from the state fairgrounds. He swung by the pig pens a few times a week to see Floyd.
“He was in a pen, but he had to be pointed out to me,” Boyd said. “Then I recognized him after that.
“So I saw the pig up there and suddenly the pig was gone, probably to heaven.”
Floyd of Rosedale eventually was sold for $50 to J.B. Gjerdrum of southeast Minnesota, just six miles north of the Iowa border. The pig died after contracting cholera in the summer of 1936. He’s buried beneath a spruce tree on Gjerdrum’s farm.
Boyd graduated with a pair of degrees from the University of Minnesota. He joined the Iowa faculty in 1954 and became the university president in 1969. He left in 1981 to become president of The Field Museum in Chicago in 1981. He later returned to Iowa and served as interim president in 2002-2003. He continues to teach for the law school and holds the title president emeritus.
Boyd’s sporting loyalties changed along with his location. He now roots fiercely for Iowa and touts Floyd of Rosedale for easing tension between the schools.
“Iowa is a such a great place, and I think everybody in the Big Ten considers Iowa a wonderful place,” Boyd said. “I think it’s (the Iowa-Minnesota rivalry) very healthy. It came out of a not-so healthy situation, but it made things healthy.”
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