Believe it or not, in the nascent years of the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Illinois Fighting Illini football programs, the rivalry between these two programs was quite intense. The teams first met in 1902, a contest that ended in a 0-0 tie. Between 1902 and 1924, these teams met 13 times, with Illinois claiming victory seven times. Ohio State beat the Illini four times in that span, and there were two ties.
In 1925, the Bucket and Dipper honorary society at Ohio State, and the Atius-Sachem honorary society at Illinois, worked together to come up with a way to commemorate the rivalry between the Buckeyes and the Fighting Illini. Beginning with the 1925 season, the team that won the rivalry game was presented with a live turtle, named the Illibuck. A turtle was chosen because of their long lifespan, which was meant to symbolize the long life of the rivalry between the Buckeyes and the Illini.
The original Illibuck had no such luck, however, and passed away in 1927. Since that time, a carved wooden turtle, still known as the Illibuck, and nicknamed "Illy Illibuck," has served as the trophy in this rivalry. Nine Illibucks have been carved since 1927, and each bears the scores from the games on its back. The trophy weighs 32 pounds, and is the second-oldest trophy tradition in Big Ten history, after the Little Brown Jug awarded to the winner of That Team Up North and Minnesota, which was initiated in 1903.
Members of the Bucket and Dipper and Atius-Sachem societies meet on the field between quarters, and the winner of the most recent contest is presented with the trophy. In the early days of the Illibuck tradition, the members of these societies would also share a peace pipe, but that no longer occurs.
Future changes in Big Ten alignment will prevent Ohio State and Illinois from meeting every season, but this is unlikely to disrupt the Illibuck tradition. There have been times throughout the teams' histories when the Buckeyes and Illini have not played each other each season. The teams did not meet in 2003 or 2004, and during their matchup in 2005, members of the Atius-Sachem honorary presented Bucket and Dipper members with the Illibuck in honor of Ohio State's 2002 National Championship victory.
The Buckeyes have a significant edge in this rivalry throughout the Illibuck Trophy era. Since 1925, the Buckeyes have a record of 60-23-2, not including a vacated 2010 victory over the Illini. Ohio State currently holds a four-game winning streak in this trophy series.