Intensification of the IUB-Purdue Old Oaken Bucket Rivalry

Ask any 21st-century Hoosier about the IU-Purdue rivalry and you'll get a fairly standard set of replies, most of which center around Bobby Knight throwing a chair in the early 90s. Really dedicated Hoosiers will tell you about the Old Oaken Bucket, a prize that the winning football team takes home with them each year, adding a link to the 40-lb chain of bronze I, P, and IP links that mark the winning team (or a tie) back to 1925.

If you ask Mark Deal, he'll bring the Old Oaken Bucket out and show you.

A 1920s leather case holds the bucket, its links and all of its history, which can be traced back to the Bruner family farm in Southern Indiana. Deal, who helped find the Bruner family and reunite them with the Bucket, traces his enthusiasm for the Bucket and its history to his own life experience: current IU assistant athletic director, brother and son of Bucket game winners, and himself a winner of Bucket games as both an IU player and an IU coach.

This model of the Old Oaken Bucket brings the trophy that is presented to the winner of the rivalry game between IU and Purdue into your living room. It's been immortalized by Bing Crosby, whose song of The Old Oaken Bucket is a musical version of a poem by Samuel Woodsworth. Woodsworth's regard for this “Moss covered vessel, I hail as a treasure” is an excellent description of how the fans of IU and Purdue feel about their Oaken Bucket.

While the rivalry between the Indiana University Hoosiers [Link] and Purdue University Boilermakers has always been present, it reached a new intensity during the 70s to the 90s. This was caused by 2 huge coaching presences, Bobby Knight at Indiana University and Gene Keady of Purdue. Even though these were basketball coaches, this intensified the rivalry in all sports, including the Old Oaken Bucket game.

Students at both universities believe that they are undeniably better than the other. IU students point to their 5 NCAA banners [link] as proof of their superiority, as well as the fact that they have won the bucket the last four years in a row. Purdue students point out their oaken bucket record as proof of their dominance. Purdue was won the majority of the games with a 57–29–3 record.

Before 1970, the landscape of the IU-Purdue rivalry was peaceful. The biggest reason it even existed wasn’t personal or anything. It exists because these are the two biggest public universities in the state and their identities could not be more different. IU is more white collar as opposed to Purdue, which is more blue collar. It’s engineering and agriculture (Purdue) vs. medicine and business (IU). It’s conservative (Purdue) vs. liberal (IU).

This peaceful rivalry changed when Bobby Knight and Gene Keady took on their roles as basketball head coaches at IU and Purdue respectively during the same time period. Both of them brought up the excitement level because of how they (and particularly Bobby Knight) behaved toward each other and toward the opposing teams’ athletic departments. These two coaches improved the quality of their teams, which made the games between them a bigger deal. Its always more exciting to watch a game between two skilled teams as opposed to two teams of lower skill levels. Now that the stakes were higher when the two teams played each other, the environment in the arenas was more charged, and this combination encouraged initially low-stakes rivalry.

Over the long term, higher-stakes stunts emerged that were perpetrated by the two coaches and by their fan base. 6 intense-rivalry games and incidents took place between the beginning of the Knight/Keady rivalry and the year 2000. During this time coach Bobby Knight got so angry during an IU Purdue game that he threw his chair across the court. This of course caused knight to be ejected from the game, but as he was leaving, IU students gave him a standing ovation. After he left they became hostile and started throwing things, like coins at the Purdue players. This chair toss became an iconic moment in IU/Purdue history and has been replayed at every matchup game between the two at Purdue’s Mackey Arena. In another incident, Bobby Knight invited the athletics director of Purdue to appear on television with him. When King declined Knight brought a jackass (a male donkey) wearing a Purdue hat onto a show as a stand in for King. IU isn’t the only one keeping this rivalry alive however. During the second half of every basketball game, the students of Purdue Chant “IU Sucks!” regardless of whether or not they are playing against IU. At every kickoff of a football game they also chant “IU Sucks”[link]

Even thought this rivalry escalated due to basketball, this does not mean that the Old Oaken Bucket isn’t relevant. It is the most recognizable symbol of the rivalry that there is and it has a lot of strong emotions tied to it. It was first created by both IU and Purdue alumni who felt that an Old Oaken Bucket was the most typically Hoosier form of trophy. It was first unveiled at the IU Purdue game in 1925. It was also decided that they would attach a brass link on a chain that would display an I if IU won and a P is Purdue did. Funnily enough, the first Oaken Bucket game ended with a 0 - 0 tie, so the first link on this chain, the one most hanging most prominently from the handle is and an IP. The bucket has now become so iconic of the IU Purdue rivalry that even though the state is more captivated by basketball, it is still the most prized possession between IU and Purdue. And as with many prized possessions, some people wanted to steal it. The first time this happened was just 5 years after it’s introduction, in 1930. Since IU dominated Purdue in that game, a Purdue representative brought the bucket to a train station in order to get the bucket to IU. Students in IU clothing met the representative at the station and claimed to have been tasked with taking the bucket back to Bloomington. Later it turned out the bucket had never made it to IU and the students that had received it were actually Purdue students in disguise. The trophy was later recovered in Lafeyette but this was not the last time that the bucket was stolen. It has a history of being taken by both IU and Purdue students, at times disappearing for an entire year, only to turn up on the night before the rivalry game.

My original plan for this project was to do a more broad overview of the IU Purdue Rivalry. However, this approach didn’t have enough direction so I narrowed my scope to the most intense time in the rivalry’s history. I had also planned to include some interview of people who attended IU during this time, but the after conducting the interviews I felt that this section honestly wouldn’t improve what I have, as my interviewee was not into sports and didn’t really care. In terms of the digital portion I included the 3D model as i had planned, as well as bing crosby singing about the Old Oaken Bucket. I decided against including a selfie of myself with the bucket for size purposes as it really didn’t feel like it fit. I still did use the pattern to 3D print a model of the bucket.

Given more time I might look into the games themselves and how close they were. Even though Purdue has won more games than IU, were they blow outs? Or was the game very close and Purde pulled ahead. Probably some of both. With more time I might examine student opinion of the other school from articles in student papers both before and after the games.


Cook, Brad. “Sincerely Yours: The Origins of the Old Oaken Bucket.” Indiana University Archives. N.p., 16 Nov. 2016. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.

Crosby, Bing. "The Old Oaken Bucket," with The Music Maids and Hal and John Scott Trotter and his Orchestra. Clementine/The Old Oaken Bucket, Decca records, release 25020, 1941.

Pushkar, Brad. “Opinion: ‘IU Sucks’ Doesn’t Need to Change.” Purdue Exponent. N.p., 09 Dec. 2016. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.

Bantin, Philip. “OLD OAKEN BUCKET.” Old Oaken Bucket. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2017.

Titus, Mark. “Unheralded Rivalry Report: Indiana vs. Purdue.” Grantland. N.p., 05 Feb. 2015. Web. 02 Mar. 2017.

Woodsworth, Samuel. "The Old Oaken Bucket", in Bliss Carman, et al., eds. The World’s Best Poetry, Volume 1. 1904.

Ziege, Tori. "The Old Oaken Bucket Comes Home." IU Athletic Department Football Division, July 22, 2016. Accessed May 3, 2017.