Conference realignment has killed many rivalries, and with it, the long-standing traditions that went along with them. Growing up, we all recall Oklahoma-Nebraska, Pittsburgh-West Virginia (The Backyard Brawl), Missouri-Kansas (The Border War), and so many more. Realignment didn’t just separate well-known rivalries – the smaller conferences were also affected. Some schools sought greener pastures, with more exposure and money. It’s no secret that the Sun Belt is the small, rural FBS conference. When a school transitions from FCS to FBS, the Sun Belt has been a starting point for many. For Troy and Middle Tennessee State, it worked out exactly that way. When conference realignment happened in 2013, the “Battle for the Palladium” was cast aside. The damage? A game which, in 2008, was a Top 5 non-BCS game in 2008 by ESPN. The two programs went on a seven year period without playing each other.
COVID-19 was an absolutely awful thing that happened to our nation, and absolutely watered down college football in 2020. Teams were left scrambling for games, and these two rivals were able to work something out. In 2020 Troy-MTSU played a home and home within the same season. Troy taking the opening game of the season, while MTSU answered back with a win in the middle of the season. Currently the Palladium Trophy resides in Murfreesboro Tennessee. Both teams have out of conference games scheduled into 2025 and beyond, yet they aren't scheduled to play again anytime soon. The rivalry is going dormant again. BATTLE FOR THE PALLADIUM OVERVIEW - Series Standings: Middle Tennessee State, 13-9 - Longest Winning Streak: Middle Tennessee State, 8 games, 1936-1953. - Last 10: 7-3, Troy - Troy won its first game in the series in 1999. - Last Played: 2020 (20-17, MTSU)
HISTORY OF THE RIVALRY GAME
While the rivalry started in the mid-1930’s, the trophy was created in 2003. The intent of both student governments was to engage both schools’ fans – and boy, did it work. Both schools agreed to base the trophy on Greek Mythology, due to the schools’ shared nods to it. The Troy Trojans are obvious, but the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders are a little less so. The Blue Raiders’ mascot is Lightning – a winged horse that bears a striking resemblance to a Pegasus. According to Greek Mythology, the Palladium is a wooden statue that fell from the heavens that was kept in Troy (Turkey, not Alabama).
When the trophy was announced, the Sun Belt gained a marquee televised game. This trophy game often pitted the top two teams in the Sun Belt against each other. This game gave the conference a ton of exposure and some establishing prestige at the time.
When the ACC raided the Big East in 2013, a lot of shifting started to happen around college football. The remainder of the Big East started a new conference – the American Athletic Conference. The AAC then raided Conference USA, and CUSA raided the Sun Belt. Middle Tennessee State joined CUSA in the 2013 season.
Fast forward to 2021 we had another round of conference realignment. The SEC raided the Big 12 of their two cash cows, the Big 12 took the best the AAC had to offer, and the AAC survived by feasting on CUSA. Conference USA is where Middle Tennessee State calls home since it left the Sun Belt and they are stuck there. The Sun Belt refused to take any member that bailed on bad taste. So years earlier Troy may have thought it was being left behind but now they are in one of the best G5 Conferences since this new realignment.
While I understand the Sun Belt keeping out the likes of Middle Tennessee State, it's sad that we may not see these two play again for a very long time. Battle for the Palladium is dormant again.