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The art of winning


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From the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art:

THE ART OF WINNING By Jessica Hughes

Congratulations to the new National Champions, our own Auburn Tigers! We at JCSM thought that we would do our part to help celebrate this exciting victory by bringing you a look at the "art behind the game."

The Heisman Trophy and the Coaches' Trophy, awarded this year to Auburn quarterback Cam Newton and coach Gene Chizik, are among the most sought after awards in college football. Congruent with the exceptional accomplishments that they commemorate, the trophies themselves are created through distinctive processes befitting the superlative achievements of their recipients.

The Heisman Trophy is the design of New York sculptor Frank Eliscu. Commissioned by the Downtown Athletic Club of New York in 1935, Eliscu was charged with creating a formidable bronze replica of a footballer in action. Seeking to achieve the utmost authenticity, Eliscu made use of actual college players to serve as his models for the trophy. Beginning with his observations of Ed Smith, a player for the 1934 New York University football team, the artist sculpted a rough clay sculpture. From there Eliscu collaborated with Fordham University head coach Jim Crowley and his players to refine the model, or maquette, through first-hand demonstrations. The completed maquette was then used to create a plaster mold from which an exact replica would be cast in bronze utilizing an ancient technique known as the lost-wax process.

Following a complicated procedure, in the lost-wax process a hollow mold is made from the original sculpture and afterward lined in thick wax. A heat-resistant material then fills the remaining interior of the mold. When molten bronze is poured into the mold form, it melts and replaces the wax layer, producing a detailed bronze copy of the sculpture. Dating at least to the 3rd millennium BC, lost-wax casting, also known as cire perdue, was used by classical Greek sculptors to create monuments that honored their society's most esteemed warriors, athletes, and other heroes.

The finished Heisman statue weighs 45 pounds and measures 14 inches long, 13 ½ inches in height, and 6 ½ inches in width. Currently, two statues are produced and presented yearly, with one going to the individual recipient of the award and the other to the school for which he competed. 

Comparable in size and grandeur is The American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) National Championship Trophy (or The Coaches' Trophy).  Featuring a lattice-work football sculpted in sparkling glassware by the famed artisans of Waterford Crystal and mounted atop an ebony base, The Coaches' Trophy weighs nearly 45 pounds and stands 34 inches tall. Handmade in Ireland, the trophy takes nearly 3 months to complete. Requiring consummate skill and artistry to sculpt the prestigious award, lead glass is heated, shaped, and cut to brilliant effect in Waterford Crystal's esteemed tradition of color purity and craftsmanship. The impressive trophy is presented to the winning coach's team and is kept permanently by their school. As with the Heisman Trophy, a new trophy is commissioned each year for the winning recipient. The Coaches' Trophy was first awarded in 1986.

Both trophies are now on view in the trophy room at the Athletics Complex. War Eagle!

Interested in Learning More?




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