Alvarez vs. Wisconsin
Nebraska linebacker Barry alvarez (33) returns an interception 25 yards in a 31-3 Cornhusker victory over Wisconsin at Camp Randall Stadium in 1966.
Ameche, Alan 'The Horse'
Born in Italy as Lino Dante Ameche, the future Heisman Trophy winner changed his name to Alan at age 16. Lino, in his mind, was not rugged enough. Widely respected for his strength as a youth, he won the light heavyweight Golden Gloves novice boxing championship of Kenosha by default. All of his rivals dropped out after learning Ameche had entered the tournament.
During his college recruitment, he was being heavily pressured to attend Notre Dame by Fred Miller, the philanthropic owner of Milwaukee's Miller Brewing Co. Wisconsin partisans, however, threatened a boycott against the buying and consumption of Miller beer if Ameche attended Notre Dame. Under threat of boycott, Miller backed off and Ameche signed with Wisconsin.
In 1953, when rule changes made it necessary for him to be an all-purpose player, Ameche played defense with such ferocity that he ended up playing 55 minutes or more in each game, prompting a nickname, 'The Iron Horse.' Ameche, drafted by Baltimore, eventually turned down a lucrative offer to join the pro wrestling tour and signed with the Colts. He led the NFL in rushing his first season and was named Rookie of the Year.
Ameche died following heart surgery in 1988 at the age of 55.
The artificial turf at Camp Randall Stadium was first installed in 1968 when Wisconsin became the second school in the nation to install Tartan Turf. Designed by the 3M Company, the original turf cost $210,000 and was funded by the UW Parking and Transportation Board in exchange for permission to convert practice fields on the north end of Camp Randall into a 500-car parking lot.
The initial surface turned black in some areas when the green fiber tips broke off, so 3M sprayed the field green for the 1969 season. Camp Randall Stadium's playing surface was replaced prior to Wisconsin's 1998 Big Ten championship season. At the same time, the school replaced the playing surface in the McClain Athletic Center, too.
During the summer of 2003, Wisconsin contracted with FieldTurf to install its product in Camp Randall Stadium and the McClain Center. The FieldTurf product is the playing surface of choice for a number of major college and professional stadiums. The turf includes a sand and ground up rubber base that leads to excellent drainage in wet conditions and a soft, non-abrasive condition to cushion falls. Yardage numerals and hash marks are glued in, and the red endzone names and center Motion W were manufactured according to UW color specs and added in the fall of 2004.
The team's nickname, 'Badgers,' was borrowed from the state of Wisconsin. The territory was dubbed the 'Badger State,' not because of animals in the region, but rather an association with lead miners in the 1820s. Prospectors came to the state looking for minerals. Without shelter in the winter, the miners had to 'live like badgers' in tunnels burrowed into hillsides.
Jim Bakken, a former kicker with the St. Louis Cardinals, set a UW record with six field goal attempts vs. Minnesota in 1961. Bakken served as an administrator in the Badger athletic department before his retirement in 2003.
When a Badger team wins an athletic contest, members of the band turn their hats around and wear them backwards. The practice started in the 1920s to symbolize the band looking back at the victory in days when they marched out with the departing crowd.
Badgers in various forms have been recognized as the school mascot for decades. The version currently known as Bucky, sporting a cardinal and white letter sweater, was first drawn in 1940 by artist Art Evans. At that time, the badger went by names like Benny, Buddy, Bernie, Bobby and Bouncey. Art Lentz, the department's publicity director, had the idea to bring the mascot to life.
The original badger mascot was too vicious to control. On more than one occasion, the live badger escaped handlers before a sideline hero recaptured the animal with a flying tackle. It was decided in the interest of fan and player safety that Wisconsin's mascot be retired to the Madison Zoo. The Badger Yearbook replaced the live badger with a small raccoon named Regdab (badger backwards) and passed it off as a 'badger in a raccoon coat.'
In 1949, a student in the university's art department, Connie Conrad, was commissioned to mold a paper-mache badger head. Gymnast and cheerleader, Bill Sagal, of Plymouth, Wis., was directed by homecoming chair Bill Sachse, to wear the outfit at the homecoming game. A contest was staged to name the popular mascot. The winner was Buckingham U. Badger, or Bucky. The name apparently came from the lyrics in a song which encouraged the football team to 'buck right through that line.'
Bucky Badger has persevered through the years, even surviving a threat by then assistant attorney general, Howard Koop, in 1973. He suggested that Bucky be replaced by Henrietta Holstein, a loveable cow. Koop argued that 'kids love cows. A generation could grow up supporting the university and Henrietta Holstein.' Koop's effort to overthrow Bucky failed.
Bucky even survived a cameo appearance by former Sports Illustrated writer Rick Telander. In preparation for a book about the athletic department, Telander wore Bucky's costume at a '91 volleyball game. Telander overcame 'terminal claustrophobia' in his appearance.
An integral part of any Wisconsin band performance is the playing of the Bud song. The tune is a spinoff of the song 'You've Said It All,' a jingle with words and music originally written by Steve Karmen for Budweiser beer commercials. Copyrighted by Sandlee Publishing Corporation in 1970, the song has become legendary at the University because of its polka-like rhythm. Band director Michael Leckrone said the song's popularity got started at a 1975 hockey game. 'The crowd wanted to hear a polka,' he said. 'I didn't have any polkas. We had, just by accident, this beer commercial in the tunes we play. I told the band if we substituted the word ÔWisconsin' for ÔBudweiser' it would work.'
Leckrone said the song became a football tradition after a 1978 come-from-behind victory over Oregon. "Wisconsin was behind by three touchdowns, and the crowd was really dead. I played the song to get everyone pepped up. About 20 seconds after that, Wisconsin scored a TD. I played it again, and Wisconsin scored another touchdown. From then on, the band could never play enough 'Bud,'" said Leckrone.
The University of Wisconsin Athletic Department's official colors are Cardinal and White. PMS 200 is the designated color of the cardinal.
The Wisconsin band has become nationally famous for its post-game celebration called the Fifth Quarter. Win or lose, fans sing, dance and cheer with the band as they play traditional favorites, like 'On, Wisconsin' and the Bud song. Originally, the post-game concert was designed to give the fans something to listen to on their way out of the stadium, but it developed into a post-game party as the band built in audience participation activities.
Download/Listen to 5th quater songs
Graduating Law Students
At the homecoming game, graduating law students throw canes over the crossbar of the goal post in a pre-game ceremony. If students catch their cane, legend claims they will win their first case. If the cane is dropped, the case will be lost. The custom originated at Harvard and came to the UW-Madison in 1910.
The 1951 Wisconsin defense, known as the 'Hard Rocks,' led the country in total defense (154.8 per game) and was second in rushing defense (66.8). That defense allowed only 5.9 points per game and actually outscored the opponents 58-53 for the season. The defense was so terrorizing that the athletic department received a letter from one fan asking Wisconsin to 'punt on first down' so he could see more of the defensive platoon.
Eight of the nine seniors on the 'Hard Rocks' scored in their careers. The ninth, Bill Lane, came close. With Indiana backed up deep in its own territory for a punt, the seniors told Lane they would refrain from rushing in order to form a wedge, or 'meatchopper,' for him to run behind and score. Much to the seniors' dismay, freshman Don Voss missed the call and blocked the punt.
After the season, the defensive platoon challenged the offense in a charity game with one interesting twist. The offensive team could have the ball all the time, since the defense felt it could outscore its opponents even without the ball.
Hirsch, Elroy "Crazylegs"
Though he only played one season in Madison, Hirsch's legacy grew through 18 years as athletic director and many more as a goodwill ambassador.
Hirsch was first tagged 'Crazylegs' on Sept. 26, 1942, after a 60-yard touchdown run vs. Notre Dame prompted a local writer to say, 'His crazy legs were gyrating.' After leaving Wisconsin, he starred for nine seasons with the Los Angeles Rams.
During those days in L.A., he kept busy by making three movies, including 'Crazylegs, All-American' in which he portrayed himself. After retiring as a player, he worked in the Rams' front office before returning to Madison as athletic director from 1969-1987.
His No. 40, the number he wore at every stop in his football career but one, is retired at Wisconsin. Because of a mandatory league numbering system he wore No. 80 (double-40) for the Chicago Rockets, but had the No. 40 stitched on the inside of his jersey.
Hirsh passed away on January 28th, 2004 of natural causes. "There was never a more loved and admired ambassador for Badger Sports than Elroy Hirsch," said Athletic Director Pat Richter. "He loved life, loved people, and loved the Badgers."
The three-time, first-team, all-Big Ten running back wasn't recruited to play high school football because he had Osgood Schlatter disease (a knee ailment that affected teenagers) and didn't play seventh and eighth grade football.
The 5-foot-8 Marek carried the ball only once as a freshman at the UW, then put together three consecutive 1,200-yard seasons. In danger of falling shy of 1,000 yards in 1974 after missing nearly three full games with injuries, Marek rushed for 704 yards in the final three games, including 304 and five touchdowns in a 49-14 rout of Minnesota. His play earned him Sports Illustrated's national offensive back of the week honors.
Marek was at the center of an April Fool's Day joke played by Wisconsin State Journal columnist Tom Butler in 1975. Butler wrote a tongue-in-cheek piece about moving the Big Ten's leading rusher to the defensive secondary for his senior season. The article ended with the phrase, 'April Fools!' Unfortunately, wire service reporters did not make it to the last line, and called head coach John Jardine's house for confirmation. The AP eventually moved the story on its national wire for about a half-an-hour before the hoax was discovered.
When Barry Alvarez came to Madison, he decided that the helmet logo needed to be updated to signal a new era in Wisconsin football. He entertained 15-20 different designs in 1990 before Rayovac artist Rick Suchanek developed the 'Motion W,' which included a tail at the back of the logo. Alvarez thought the tail was a bit much, but when it was removed, decided to go with it. The University bought the rights to the design, and the logo has been adopted by all other UW sports.
There is no greater authority on UW athletics than former Sports Information Director Jim Mott. His association with the sports information office began as a student assistant in 1953. He was named assistant SID a year later and was appointed director in 1966, a position he held until his retirement in 1990.
He is a past president of the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) and is a member of that organization's Hall of Fame. Mott was also inducted into the National W Club's Hall of Fame in '95.
Mott's memory is legendary among athletic department staffers. When the question of previous home night games was being tossed around the sports information office in anticipation of a 1995 contest against Colorado, Mott noted that the UW had two previous home night games in its history. Obvious was the 1986 battle with Michigan. Mott also recalled the 1896 loss to the Carlisle Indians, including the date of the game, final score, and the fact that it was played in Chicago Coliseum. Mott, a former basketball letterman at the UW, has written a book on the history of Wisconsin athletics and is still a member of the school's football and basketball stat crews.<
One of several Wisconsin greats from the pre-modern era of college football is kicker Pat O'Dea. The Australian-born O'Dea came to Madison in 1896 to join his brother Andy, who was crew coach and football trainer. Known as the 'Kangaroo Kicker,' O'Dea brought a different style to the American game of football. He learned to play the Australian game where all punting and drop-kicking was done on the run. O'Dea drop-kicked a legendary 62-yard field goal vs. Northwestern during a heavy blizzard. After his playing days, he coached at Notre Dame and Missouri before moving to San Francisco. O'Dea, who essentially had disappeared, was thought to have joined an Australian contingent which travelled through the country. Press releases surmised that he 'probably lies beneath an unmarked grave in France.'
The truth was, he had moved to California under the assumed name of Charles J. Mitchell, to escape the pressure of being a star ex-athlete. 'Probably, I was wrong,' he said in an interview with San Francisco sportswriter Bill Leiser after the 17-year exile. 'I wanted to get away from my past. As Pat O'Dea, I seemed very much just an ex-football player. I was very happy as Charles Mitchell for awhile.'
The tune was originally composed in 1909 by Chicago's William Purdy, and the words were written by Carl Beck. Purdy and Beck had been fraternity brothers at Hamilton College (Clinton, N.Y.) and were roommates in Chicago. Purdy was going to submit the song for a $100 prize that the University of Minnesota was offering for a new football song. When Beck heard the music, he offered to write words and suggested that Purdy offer it to Wisconsin, where Beck had once studied. The song was an instant hit on campus and spread throughout the world. It was especially popular with military bands.
Some 2,500 schools have adopted the music and changed the words to suit their needs. 'On, Wisconsin' was sung for the first time at the 1909 homecoming game vs. Minnesota.
The music was adapted by current Band Director Michael Leckrone in 1969. The original version had been played virtually unchanged since its inception. 'I got a lot of flak for that,' Leckrone said. 'The old version was one you had to wait on. I wanted to generate immediate crowd reaction, so I stepped it up a bit.'
On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin
Plunge right through that line,
Run the ball clear down the field, boys
Touchdown sure this time
On Wisconsin, On Wisconsin
Fight on for her fame,
Fight, Fellows, Fight, Fight, Fight
We'll win this game!
Paul Bunyan Axe
The most-played rivalry in Division I football continues this fall when Wisconsin and Minnesota meet. The UW-UM series is the nation's oldest and has been played continuously for since 1890 (except for 1906). The game has alternated sites between the university campuses since 1946. Much prestige was always associated with the game, and the significance was emphasized with its place on the schedule. Between 1933 and 1982, the Wisconsin-Minnesota game was always the final regular-season contest for each school.
The series took an added twist in 1948 when more than state bragging rights were on the line. After a 16-0 setback that season, the Wisconsin lettermen's group, the National 'W' Club, presented Minnesota with an axe wielded by Paul Bunyan. He was the mythical giant of Midwestern lumber camps. Each year since, the winner of the annual battle between the Big Ten rivals is presented with the axe, complete with scores inscribed on the handle, for display on its campus.
Slab of Bacon
The Slab of Bacon trophy was the precursor to Paul Bunyan's Axe as the prize in the Wisconsin-Minnesota football series. Apparently, the trophy was presented to the winning school by a sorority from the losing institution. The trophy was discontinued in the 1940s and was discovered in a storage room at the UW Department of Athletics in 1994. It is currently housed in the football office at Wisconsin. 'We took home the bacon,' Coach Barry Alvarez said, 'and kept it.'
The traditional arm-waving at the end of the song, 'Varsity,' was the 1934 brainstorm of band leader Ray Dvorak. He saw Pennsylvania students wave their caps after losing a game. Dvorak later instructed Wisconsin students to salute UW President Glenn Frank after each game.
Var-sity! Var-sity! U-rah-rah! Wisconsin!
Praise to thee we sing
Praise to thee our Alma Mater