The Fremont Cannon is the trophy awarded to the winner of the Battle for Nevada (also known as the Nevada–UNLV football rivalry), an American college footballrivalry game played annually by the Nevada Wolf Pack football team of the University of Nevada, Reno (Nevada) and the UNLV Rebels football team of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). The trophy was built in 1970 and is a replica of a 19th-century Howitzer cannon that accompanied American explorer and politician John C. Frémont on an expedition to the American West and Nevada in the mid 19th century. The original cannon had been abandoned, due to heavy snows, in the Sierra Nevada in 1843. The replica cannon was originally fired following a touchdown by the team in possession of the cannon, but it has been inoperable since 1999. The wooden carriage is painted the school color of the team in possession, navy blue for Nevada or scarlet for UNLV. The trophy is the heaviest and most expensive in college football. Since 2012, the game is also part of the Silver State Series (formerly Governor’s Series), the series of athletic competitions between the two schools.
The first game between the teams was in 1969 with Nevada defeating UNLV. The following year, the cannon was built and UNLV became the first team to win the cannon. Nevada has the longest win streak in the rivalry, having held the cannon for eight consecutive years.
Nevada is the current holder of the trophy after defeating UNLV on October 29, 2021, at Mackay Stadium.
In 1967, Bill Ireland was hired by Nevada Southern University (the predecessor to UNLV) to coach their new football team and by 1969 came up with the idea to have a trophy as a symbol of the rivalry between the two schools. Ireland was the first football coach of the UNLV Rebels and an alumnus and former coach of Nevada. The cannon was donated by Kennecott Copper and is a replica of a howitzer cannon that explorer John C. Fremont used on an expedition in 1843 and left in a large snowdrift in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The cannon contains a 55 millimetres (2.2 in) barrel, weighs 545 pounds (247 kg), and cost $10,000 to build, making it the heaviest and most expensive trophy in college football. The cannon is painted the winning team’s color, red for UNLV, and blue for Nevada.
The two schools first played each other on November 22, 1969, the Saturday before Thanksgiving Day. This game was homecoming for Nevada, who won the game 30–28. At the time, construction of the cannon had yet to be completed. The first competition for the cannon was in 1970 when the Rebels won 42–30 in Las Vegas. In 1978, following Nevada’s first victory over UNLV in four seasons, Chris Ault convinced security at McCarran International Airport to allow the team to disassemble the cannon and take it as carry-on luggage back to Reno. The team had to figure out how to break down the cannon, a task that was usually done by the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, which UNLV did not have in 1978.
The Fremont Cannon was refurbished by the UNLV athletics department at a cost of $1,500 in 2000 following damage after a UNLV victory celebration wherein fans and players attempted to lift the cannon and dropped it. Traditionally, the team possessing the cannon would fire it each time they scored a touchdown during the rivalry game; however, the cannon has not been fired since the restoration due to the damage it received.