Evan Thue –
Many great rivalries in sports are born from something. Some are made from intense competition; some are made from respect from one another. Some are made from vicinity, but somehow the rivalry between University of Wisconsin-Stout and University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire was made and molded by all three.
East on I-94 just 30 minutes from Menomonie is Eau Claire, a city much larger in size and population than Menomonie.
“The schools have played each other in almost all sports since 1917. Eau Claire started as a school in 1916 and the following school year, the teams played in football and basketball where Stout won both meetings,” said Sports Information Director Layne Pitt.
From there the rivalry had been set and for the next century, the rivalry would see many incredible games and match-ups.
One example that Pitt gave of the rivalry between the two schools was the women’s basketball teams between the 1990’s and the early 2000s. Both teams had some epic showdowns and always seemed to be at the top end of the conference race.
In the 1960s and 70s the men’s basketball teams of UW-Stout and UW-Eau Claire played some very intense game which often ended with conference titles and trips to the national tournament.
“This was before I was here, but tickets for those Stout/Eau Claire games were very hard to come by. Students would line up as soon as the tickets went on sale. The gym was absolutely packed, and fans were always treated with a great game,” said Pitt.
Of course, we’re talking about showdowns, the games between UW-Stout and UW-Eau Claire’s football and soccer team’s respectively. The soccer teams compete yearly for the Paul Bunyan Axe Trophy, and the football team’s compete for the “War on I-94” trophy.
The idea for the War on I-94 in 2008 and ever since each year the teams battle it out to be able to hold onto the trophy for a year. “My first experience with this rivalry was in 2007. At the time, we had 2 coaches on our staff, Sean Hoolihan and Dan McCarty, who both played at UWEC. Some of the UWEC coaches that coached them were still on staff and still good friends of ours. So in 2008 Hoolihan mentioned to the UWEC head coach, Todd Glaser, that we should add a traveling trophy to this rivalry… and that is how the War on I-94 traveling trophy began” said UW-Stout’s head football coach Clayt Birmingham.
But it’s certainly not just those particular sports are involved in the rivalry said Pitt. “Baseball, golf, swimming, hockey…you name it, all of the sports would go toe-to-toe with each other. Records did not usually matter when UW-Stout and UW-Eau Claire played.”