With a Western Athletic Conference title no longer on the line against Boise State, the Fresno State football team still has something to play for on Friday night in Idaho: the Milk Can Trophy.
In 2005, a group of local dairymen from both the Fresno and Boise areas came together to establish a traveling trophy that was awarded each year to the victors of the game.
Visalia dairyman and donor Roger Fluegel and his group of followers wanted to add a sense of substance and uniqueness to the newly formed Western Athletic Conference rivalry by awarding a trophy that related well to both areas.
“Its kind of a combination with Pat Hill because the team represents the Valley and agriculture by having a ‘V’ on the back their helmets,” Fluegel said. “So we wanted to add to that by creating the Milk Can.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, California is the nation’s leading dairy state while Idaho is the third largest milk producing state in the country.
Fluegel said that they decided on the Milk Can as a trophy because it defines the region where each school resides.
“The Milk Can is a symbol of Fresno and Boise because the dairy industry is one of the biggest industries in both states,” Fluegel said.
The football series between Fresno State and Boise State started in 1977 when the Bulldogs were playing in the Pacific Coast Conference Association and the Broncos were a member of the Big Sky Conference.
In their first-ever meeting, the ‘Dogs trounced the Broncos 42-7 and won the next two games in 1984 and 1996. Both schools would not meet again until Boise State became a member of the WAC in 2001. That year, the Broncos galloped into Bulldog Stadium and upset the David Carr-led Fresno State team that entered the game with a No. 8 national ranking.
Both teams would continue play as conference members from 2002-04 before the Milk Can trophy was created.
“We bought the can and started it as a way to enhance the rivalry,” Fluegel said.
Fluegel and his group of tailgaters brought the Milk Can to the 2005 game between the two schools in Fresno and presented the trophy to university officials and players, but the trophy wasn’t officially integrated into the rivalry until after that season.
“In 2006 it became officially a part of the series,” Fluegel said.
Boise State has owned the series since Fresno State’s 27-7 victory in 2005. Since then, the Broncos have won four straight and have held onto the Milk Can during that streak.
The all-time series currently stands at 8-4 with Boise State winning eight of the last nine games.
Although the Milk Can trophy hasn’t been a part of the entire series, its unique from different traveling trophies that is awarded throughout the country.
Following the game, the players on the winning team each have their names engraved onto the Milk Can.
“We used that as an example to give the game more of a meaning and a sense of history,” Fluegel said.