The Bemidji State football team has built some unique and historic traditions in its nearly 90 years of program lore. To learn more about these traditions, simply click the link below:
The Battle Axe
Since 1948 Bemidji State and Minnesota State University Moorhead have been playing for more than just a W. Sixty-six times the two teams have met on the gridiron to stake claim of a traveling trophy called The Battle Axe – an ancient weapon from New Guinea. Currently the second longest traveling trophy in Division II history, the Beavers and Dragons have played every season for the coveted bragging right with BSU trailing in the all-time Axe series 28-35-3, but have won 12 of the last 14 games.
The 1948 Bemidji State College football homecoming committee decided that something symbolic was needed to add color to the festivities. Publicity stunts that year included dropping leaflets, which included game admissions among them, from an airplane.
Homecoming committee chairman Ron Smith and others decided that an axe, then in possession of Smith, would serve as a suitable trophy to mark the hotly-contested annual Beaver-Dragon gridiron clash. The axe would be awarded to the university president representing the victor of the contest.
Smith’s axe originated in the native village of Mount Hagon, New Guinea. The axe is hand made and was polished underwater by its maker. Two types of axe are produced by natives in the Mount Hagon area, one with a blade of black stone for work and one of gray stone for ceremonies. Smith procured the gray trophy axe through a series of shrewd trades with the natives.
In 1948 the teams fought to the bitter end for possession of the weapon in the inaugural Battle for the Axe, with Moorhead State winning 13-6. Despite a loss in the first battle, Bemidji State dominated the early history of the trophy series posting a 10-3-1 record in its first 14 games. BSU won five consecutive meetings in the series from 1957-’61 and was unbeaten in seven consecutive meetings from 1955-’61.
The tide turned in 1962, with the Dragons taking control of the series for the next few decades. In 21 games played from 1962 to 1982, the Beavers brought home the Battle Axe just twice – after a 28-12 win in Bemidji in 1969 and a 24-22 win in Moorhead in 1976. The Beavers broke through with two wins in four games from 1983-’86, but would then win just once – a 28-27 win in Bemidji in 1992 – in 11 games from 1987-’97.
But the tide has once again turned in BSU’s favor, as the Beavers have captured 12 of the last 14 battles for the axe – which included a series-long streak of eight consecutive wins from 2000-2007. In Bemidji, the Beavers hold a 17-15-2 record in Axe games.
From the Sep. 29, 1948 edition of The Northern Student:
“Bemidji Presents Trophy to MSTC
Today a Homecoming committee journeyed to Moorhead State Teachers college for a special pepe convocation. At this time invitations were extended to the faculty, student body, band and queen to come to BSTC where they will be given an active part in the Homecoming activities. At the convocation Ron Smith presented the New Guinea “Battle Ax” which is the new trophy between BSTC and MSTC.”
All-Time Battle Axe Results
|1948||L, 13-6||Bemidji||1966||L, 13-0||Moorhead||1984||L, 35-28||Bemidji||2002||W, 35-28||Moorhead|
|1949||W, 13-6||Moorhead||1967||T, 20-20||Bemidji||1985||L, 14-7||Moorhead||2003||W, 23-15||Bemidji|
|1950||W, 20-0||n/a||1968||L, 28-10||Moorhead||1986||W, 27-26||Bemidji||2004||W, 42-0||Moorhead|
|1951||W, 12-0||Bemidji||1969||W, 28-12||Bemidji||1987||L, 36-14||Moorhead||2005||W, 27-13||Bemidji|
|1952||L, 19-6||Moorhead||1970||L, 33-6||Moorhead||1988||L, 47-14||Bemidji||2006||W, 21-9||Moorhead|
|1953||W, 13-6||Bemidji||1971||L, 28-8||Bemidji||1989||L, 46-12||Moorhead||2007||W, 27-3||Bemidji|
|1954||L, 20-7||Moorhead||1972||L, 48-15||Moorhead||1990||L, 37-19||Bemidji||2008||L, 27-7||Moorhead|
|1955||W, 20-7||Bemidji||1973||L, 17-7||Bemidji||1991||L, 42-14||Moorhead||2009||W, 38-13||Bemidji|
|1956||T, 13-13||Moorhead||1974||L, 40-0||Moorhead||1992||W, 28-27||Bemidji||2010||W, 14-6||Moorhead|
|1957||W, 27-14||Bemidji||1975||L, 28-0||Bemidji||1993||L, 36-16||Moorhead||2011||W, 35-10||Bemidji|
|1958||W, 48-7||Moorhead||1976||W, 24-22||Moorhead||1994||L, 33-6||Bemidji||2012||W, 35-25||Bemidji|
|1959||W, 34-6||Bemidji||1977||L, 21-14||Bemidji||1995||L, 32-20||Moorhead||2013||L, 35-17||Moorhead|
|1960||W, 20-8||Moorhead||1978||L, 28-0||Moorhead||1996||L, 29-27||Bemidji||Points||B – 1,194||M – 1,431|
|1961||W, 34-8||Bemidji||1979||L, 35-2||Bemidji||1997||L, 36-17||Moorhead||PPG||B – 18.1||M – 21.7|
|1962||L, 10-7||Moorhead||1980||L, 39-2||Moorhead||1998||W, 22-10||Bemidji|
|1963||T, 20-20||Bemidji||1981||L, 35-7||Bemidji||1999||L, 32-25||Bemidji|
|1964||L, 15-14||Moorhead||1982||L, 38-23||Bemidji||2000||W, 28-14||Moorhead|
|1965||L, 14-7||Bemidji||1983||W, 33-28||Moorhead||2001||W, 28-14||Bemidji|
Bemidji State’s Battle Axe Record
Overall: 28-35-3 (.447)
In Bemidji*: 17-15-2 (.529)
In Moorhead*: 10-20-1 (.339)
Consecutive Wins: 8, 2000-2007
Consecutive Losses: 6, twice, 1970-1975 and 1977-1982
* – Does not include the 1950 game, the location is unknown
There is a tradition at Bemidji State that the majority of college campuses in the nation physically can’t adopt. Being one of just a handful of college football fields with a lake as its neighbor, the Beavers have a homecoming victory tradition like no other. After a homecoming win, gear and all, the Beaver student-athletes and coaches celebrate by taking a dip into Lake Bemidji, splash around and sing the school song.
The first homecoming at Bemidji Teachers College was held Oct. 6, 1927. Until 1931 Homecoming was a biennial affair. In that year the demands of the alumni, eager for this season of reunion, changed it to an annual celebration with all the traditional dinners, teas, parades, dances, bonfires and football games.
During the 1993 season, the Beavers were off to an 0-4 start. In an attempt to motivate the team and campus for Homecoming, graduate assistant coach Frank Haege wrote a post game recap of the upcoming game between Bemidji State and Southwest State. The article included accounts of how the defense Damned the Mustangs and the offense executed with precision. Frank also added that after the victory the Beavers, in a fit of jubilation, jumped into Lake Bemidji with joy! He, with helpers, posted the article around campus on the week leading up to homecoming.
As it happened, the Beavers went on to lose that homecoming game 35-8 and never did win a game that season and finished 0-10. The following season, there were further threats of jumping into the lake if the Beavers won homecoming. BSU lost to Moorhead 33-6 in 1994.
Finally, in perhaps Bemidji’s best effort during the Kris Diaz (Head Coach) era. The Beavers beat the Defending Conference Champion Winona State Warriors 24- 14 on Homecoming Day, October 14, 1995. Off went the helmets and into Lake Bemidji went the players and coaches (everything went in, shoes, equipment, jerseys etc.). A tradition was born. Before that Jump in the Lake Homecoming victory, Bemidji was just 1-26 in their past 27 games. After that victory over Winona they went on to beat UM-Morris and Northern State for their first three game winning streak in over a decade!
Since that Jump in the Lake Homecoming victory in 1995 BSU is 14-5 on Homecoming. In the 11 years prior to 1995 Bemidji State was 2-9 on Homecoming.
Homecoming Record Since 1993
|Oct. 9, 1993||Southwest Minnesota State*||L, 35-8|
|Oct. 8, 1994||MSU Moorhead*||L, 33-6|
|Oct. 14, 1995||Winona State*||W, 25-14|
|Oct. 5, 1996||MSU Moorhead*||L, 29-27|
|Sept. 27, 1997||Southwest Minnesota State*||L, 16-0|
|Sept. 26, 1998||MSU Moorhead*||W, 22-10|
|Sept. 18, 1999||Wayne State*||W, 52-38|
|Oct. 7, 2000||Southwest Minnesota State*||W, 65-63|
|Oct. 6, 2001||Concordia-St. Paul*||L, 42-27|
|Oct. 5, 2002||Northern State*||W, 28-21|
|Oct. 4, 2003||MSU Moorhead*||W, 23-15|
|Sept. 25, 2004||Concordia-St. Paul*||W, 47-27|
|Oct. 1, 2005||Southwest Minnesota State*||W, 47-9|
|Oct. 7, 2006||U-Mary||L, 27-21|
|Sept. 29, 2007||Northern State*||W, 35-7|
|Sept. 27, 2008||Northern State*||W, 31-20|
|Oct. 3, 2009||St. Cloud State*||L, 38-27|
|Oct. 2, 2010||Upper Iowa*||W, 51-12|
|Oct. 8, 2011||Concordia-St. Paul*||W, 20-7|
|Sept. 29, 2012||Minnesota Crookston*||W, 35-2|
|Sept. 28, 2013||Southwest Minnesota State*||W, 41-40|
Bemidji State and Minnesota Crookston have been battling for a traveling trophy since 2004, a Hubcap, to signify their Highway 2 rivarly. BSU is 9-0 in Hubcap games.
Hubcap Game Record
|Oct. 16, 2004||W, 28-20|
|Oct. 15, 2005||W, 40-14|
|Sept. 23, 2006||W, 56-7|
|Sept. 22, 2007||W, 47-9|
|Oct. 18, 2008||W, 41-27|
|Oct. 17, 2009||W, 45-6|
|Nov. 13, 2010||W, 45-3|
|Nov. 12, 2011||W, 31-12|
|Sept. 29, 2012||W, 45-2|
|Oct. 5, 2013||L, 16-14|
|BSU, 9-1||BSU, 392-116|
The War Years
Bemidji State holds a proud distinction of being the only Minnesota Teachers College to continue its football program through World War II, when other teams across the state temporarily suspended their teams due to a lack of available men on campus to fill out their rosters. “Jolly” Erickson, BSU’s head coach at the time, simply felt it foolish not to continue.
BSU finished 4-0 with its depleted 1944 squad, one of just 15 undefeated teams in the nation that year. It remains the only unbeaten, untied team in BSU history.
Following is a story from the Sep. 27, 1944 edition of The Northern Student which recounts BSU’s decision to carry on:
BSTC Carries On in Football
Only State Peds With Uninterrupted Program
Bemidji State Teachers College is still having football! So far this northern Minnesota college, although severely handicapped by lack of men, has carried on every year in a wartime football program. It is the only one of the State Teachers Colleges in Minnesota to do so.
Coach “Jolly” Erickson says, “I think it is foolish to quit just because there aren’t 30 or 40 men around the campus. Ten boys out for the sport will get just as much out of it as a larger squad.” Coach Erickson went on to say that as long as the school has the equipment to fit out a team, every effort should be made to schedule games. Two home games are being planned this year instead of one. Eau Claire Teachers college of Wisconsin will send their team to Bemidji on October 13. The two teams should be of about the same ability as both have all-civilian teams. However, Eau Claire will have about twice as many men on the campus as Bemidji.
“I would like to see the game with Eau Claire on October 13 be our annual homecoming game with all of the festivities included,” said “Jolly,” “and we hope that the fans will come out and help us carry out our plans.”
Carl Knutson is the only returning major letter winner. He is a sophomore from Benson, Minnesota. LeRoy Voxland from Fosston won a minor letter last year. “Any able-bodied or slightly disabled man is welcome to join the squad.” So said Mr. Erickson.
Other members of the team were recently announced by Jolly. They are Ralph Magnuson, Shevlin, Minn.; Louis Marchand and Robert Liapis, Bemidji, Minn.; Clarence Sohlin and Gerald Haring, St. Paul, Minn.; LaVerne Harvey, Hibbing, Minn.; and Donald Letendre, Cass Lake, Minn. Ralph Magnuson and LaVerne Harvey have both had experience as gridders before. Magnuson bucked the line for BSTC in 1938 and Harvey fought with Hibbing High School. Four or five men are expected to report in the near future. Magnuson is the only man on this season’s team with a wife and family, so here’s hoping the Eau Claire boys won’t be too rough with him.