Minnesota has won a single Heisman trophy since the award’s inception in the 1930’s.
Bruce Smith — the player who earned the award — died in 1967 and the trophy was sold to a Los Angeles businessman, Gary Cypres, in 2005.
Now, Cypres is 74 and is considering selling the Heisman to the school. The University of Minnesota already has one of the copies, which is displayed prominently in the Gibson-Nagurski Football Practice Facility.
“In the history of football, the Heisman award was certainly the key award,” Cypres said. “I thought it would be a wonderful addition to my collection and a wonderful addition to the story I was trying to tell in the museum about how football evolved.”
When Smith’s Heisman trophy was sold for $395,000 in 2005, his family needed money for the medical expenses of Gloria Smith, Bruce’s wife, as she got older.
Cypres bought the Heisman award through the online auction. It is the most expensive Heisman trophy ever purchased, as of 2014. He currently owns a sports memorabilia collection valued at more than $1 million.
“When it’s all said and done, it’s just a trophy,” said Scott Smith, Bruce’s youngest son. “It doesn’t tell the story of the man; it’s just a material thing.”
Cypres put all his sports artifacts into one 32,000 square foot building to create the Los Angeles Sports Museum.
The Heisman, along with Smith’s uniform and the Gophers’ championship footballs make up a part of an exhibit in the museum that tells the history of football through sports memorabilia. The museum is currently closed, however.
Cypres, said the sale of his millions of dollars-worth of memorabilia is on the horizon, though he never thought in terms of resale value when he was collecting for the museum.
Smith played from 1939-1941, leading the Gophers to two consecutive undefeated seasons and national championships in 1940 and 1941.
“He was a hell of a good player,” said ‘M’ Club director George Adzick. “He could kind of do everything. He could pass, he could run, he was a really good defensive player.”
Last year marked the 75th anniversary of Bruce Smith winning the Heisman Trophy. His No. 54 was the first number to be retired by Minnesota.
Cypres said he’d give the University of Minnesota preferential treatment if they wanted to buy Smith’s copy.
“It actually belongs [to Minnesota], quite honestly,” Cypres said. “It reflects basically a golden age of football in Minnesota.”
The school’s copy of Smith’s Heisman sits in the Gibson-Nagurski Football Practice Facility, for all the Gophers players, coaches and fans to see and think about a different era of the Gophers and the sport itself.
“It’s Americana at its best,” Adzick said. “You got to play college football at the highest level to even be considered for it.”