MANHATTAN — For 51 weeks of the year, the trophy is on display in the main lobby of the Vanier Family Football Complex for all who enter to see.
But this week, as it has in the days leading up to the Sunflower Showdown the past nine years, the Governor's Cup sits in Kansas State's locker room, visible only to the Wildcat football team.
KU and K-State renew what is the fourth-longest continuously played series in the nation and the longest among Big 12 teams at 11 a.m. today at Snyder Family Stadium. The fact that both teams are struggling at 3-6 overall and 1-5 in the Big 12, is of little consequence.
Not only does the Governor's Cup serve as a reminder of K-State's dominance in the series against Kansas — the Wildcats have won nine straight — but clearly as a motivational tool as well.
"Keeping the trophy here is huge," said K-State center Adam Holtorf, a junior from Seward, Neb. "It's sitting down in the locker room right now.
"It's sat in the locker room every week of KU since I've been here (and) it's huge to be able to get it back there."
That's especially true for junior wide receiver Dalton Schoen, a Blue Valley Northwest High School graduate and lifelong K-State follower.
"I grew up a huge K-State fan and both my parents came here," Schoen said. "Everyone in my family grew up coming to games all the time.
"We don't want to be the team that loses to KU, loses the Governor's Cup (that) we've had so long. So it's on everyone's mind that we've got to win this game."
The trophy, while physically not on the KU premises, also is front and center in the mind of Jayhawk senior linebacker Joe Dineen.
"Obviously, growing up here, the K-State rivalry for me is a little more personal," said Dineen, who played at Free State High School in Lawrence. "It would be pretty awesome to beat those guys.
"For us seniors, it would be our last opportunity to go and beat them. It would make my five years here complete."
It has been a week of upheaval for the Jayhawks since David Beaty was fired as head coach, effective at season's end, following a disappointing 27-3 home loss last Saturday to Iowa State.
But facing a rival might be just what the Jayhawks need to refocus on football.
"I see those guys rallying together around our staff, and really just kind of bonding with the task at hand," Beaty said. "It just kind of happens to be the week that we're playing K-State, which I don't know that many people would think that that would be a positive, but for us it's turned into a mega positive."
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, who has not lost to Kansas at home since his first season in 1989 — the Wildcats did fall 30-24 under Ron Prince in 2007 during Snyder's three-year retirement — said he sees the gap between the Wildcats and Jayhawks closing the past couple of years.
"Last year it was a one-touchdown ballgame, late, late in the ballgame — three minutes to go — so it is competitive, very much so," he said of last year's 30-20 K-State victory in Lawrence. "KU has become a competitive football team.
"They've played some close ballgames this year with very prominent teams."
The Jayhawks also beat TCU, a team K-State lost 14-13 to last week.
Snyder has done his best externally not to place greater weight on the KU game than any other, but he acknowledged that the players might view it differently.
"You obviously have quite a few more players from the state of Kansas than you do from other states, and so it has a great significance to them, and I never overlook that in due respect to all those players," Snyder said. "They went to school with a number of those young (KU) guys, and so it's kind of a 'bragging rights' for them over a period of time."
K-State offensive tackle Dalton Risner came to Manhattan from Wiggins, Colo., but as a fifth-year senior he has gained an appreciation for the game's importance.
"Playing Kansas, every single year that's a marked game on our calendars," he said. "We know a lot of those guys on the team — especially the Kansas boys on my team, they know a lot of those guys.
"Every time we play KU, we make sure we're ready to play."
Beaty, likewise, would love to take the Governor's Cup back on the bus to Lawrence as a parting gift.
"These seniors deserve to go out with a big win against a rival that they haven't experienced," he said. "They have experienced some things that they're awfully proud of, but to beat this team and walk away with a victory, I don't know that there's any better way to honor these seniors."