“Better Dead Than Red”

This week is rivalry week. Your Lawrence Vikings football team take on the Ripon Redhawks this Saturday at Ripon at 1 p.m. The Lawrence-Ripon rivalry is the oldest college football rivalry in the state of Wisconsin and is the 14th oldest college football rivalry in the nation, having begun in 1893. Over the last 125 years, Ripon has taken an edge in the series, currently holding a 64-46-7 record. The history of this rivalry is what holds the juiciest details.

The series began with a Ripon win over Lawrence and the most recent win streak has been in the hands of Ripon. However, the schools have taken turns in the dominant position of the series. Lawrence dominated early on, but Ripon took control in the 1920s and 1930s. Lawrence regained control in the 1940s, split the series in the 1950s, and Ripon regained the upper hand in the 1960s. The 1970s through the 1980s belonged to Lawrence, but the tables seem to have turned toward Ripon ever since the inauguration of the trophy in 1988.

The trophy that Lawrence and Ripon play for, the Doehling-Heselton Memorial Trophy, was donated in 1988 by Barb Doehling Doran, daughter of Carl Doehling. This trophy commemorates the rivalry between Lawrence head coach Bernie Heselton and Ripon mentor Carl Doehling. Heselton was head coach for the Vikings from 1938 to 1964 and Doehling coached Ripon from 1924 to 1955. During that time, Lawrence has a record of 10-6-1 against Ripon. Interestingly, since the inception of that Ripon allegiance donated trophy, Ripon holds a 25-5 edge on the rivalry. Coincidence? Perhaps, but also perhaps not.

The silver-plated trophy is called “The Old Paint Bucket,” but no one knows what has become of it as it remains missing to this day. Could that be the cause of the Ripon edge in the series? Maybe Lawrence was cursed when the trophy officially disappeared. Maybe 2018 will be the year this curse is finally broken.

As rivalries go, there are some traditions and incidents that have happened over the years. At times the rivalry between schools became brutal. In 1896, The Lawrentian published an article claiming that the rivalry was so intense that football might be banned as a sport. In that article, the contributor noted, “Such playing will kill football… If Ripon or football must die, we are sorry, but it ought to be Ripon.” And then was born the phrase “Better Dead Than Red” which serves as Lawrence’s mantra when referring to their rivals. In the early 1900s spectators were often seen running onto the field and tackling opponents when their team didn’t do their job. The heat between the teams has always been intense, and continues to show through the binds of modern day moderation. Recently, a blue “L” or a red “R” have been painted on buildings of rival schools, but administrations have pretty much shut that down completely. The most outward expression of the rivalry can be found within individuals and in small gestures.

Ripon-to-Lawrence transfer student athlete Meg Krautsch describes the rivalry in one word: “Hate. The two schools absolutely hate each other.” She transferred from Ripon to Lawrence after her first year for her own personal reasons. Regarding the reason for the rivalry she said, “I don’t know how it started, but if you ever want to get back at the entire school, I 10-out-of-10 recommend transferring to the other.” From her dual school perspective, Krautsch says that “Ripon has the upper hand. There isn’t much to do in Ripon besides sports and looking at prairies and trees, so they take their athletics, and therefore their rivalries, very seriously. But I would never count Lawrence out of the race.” Having attended and participated in many Lawrence vs Ripon at both venues, Krautsch feels like every game is always close and always a fight to the end.

The rivalry is active and runs deep within the souls of those who come in contact with it. Ripon has their own saying: “FULU,” which I will assume many of you can guess what it stands for, and Krautsch hears it nonstop anytime she goes onto the Ripon campus, as well as our “Better Dead Than Red” saying while on Lawrence’s campus. It is not good to cross enemy lines. In fact, when first transferring, Kraustsch did not own much LU gear and accidentally wore a Ripon sweatshirt to practice one day and swears she could hear the coach scream from a significant distance away, “Get that s*** off!” Needless to say, she stocked up on LU gear the next day.

With a possible win in Lawrence’s near future, a reminder of tradition is necessary. Upon a victory by the Vikings over the Redhawks, the bell in Main Hall is rung. There are only two other occasions in which the bell is rung throughout the year; once for Matriculation and again for Commencement. The last 17 years, the bell has only rung twice. It’s time to break the curse. It’s time to bring home the trophy. It’s time to ring that victory bell.