First things first: Wisconsin’s offense needs to get on the same page, the special teams need to fix whatever happened on that punt, the defense needs to stop waiting until their opponent is beyond midfield to start making stops, the mistakes and penalties need to be cut down and Jonathan Taylor needs to be a serious Heisman candidate.
Now, let’s talk a little about Camp Randall.
Halftime of Saturday’s game featured a triumphant tribute to a century of history at our beloved stadium. The presentation showcased players and coaches and streakers (oh my), a litany of talented (and in the case of the streaker, raffish) characters who have helped build UW’s athletic program into the powerhouse it is today. It was a moving reminder of the days gone by, and gave the crowd a moment to reflect on the winding road that led us to this point in time.
Camp Randall joins an elite group of centenarian stadiums: Only Mississippi, Mississippi State, Georgia Tech and Cincinnati share the honor. None of those stadiums, however, can match the historical significance of Wisconsin’s. The park on which Camp Randall resides was home to over 70,000 Union soldiers during the Civil War, as well as some Confederate prisoners of war. The university bought the land to prevent it from being converted into building lots and built the stadium on part of the land, leaving the rest as a memorial park. While the stadium itself has undergone various renovations and upgrades in its 100 years, the university has remained committed to keeping it intact. It is the same commitment to upholding history and tradition that has helped secure Wisconsin’s spot in the pantheon of athletic powerhouses.
While there were certainly down periods (as any parent who went here in the 1980s will assure you), the 25-year run of success was brought about not simply because of the efforts by Donna Shalala, Pat Richter and Barry Alvarez. It came about because the people of UW, and those three in particular, understood that preserving and reviving our history was the best path forward.
To this day, Wisconsin remains one of the least-flashy schools in major college sports. It doesn’t have crazy imaginative uniforms (looking at you, Oregon and Maryland) or run crazy spread offenses that throw for 500 yards a game (like Baylor, whose 2017 campaign is going far from swimmingly) or hire loud-mouthed coaches who relish the spotlight but can’t quite attain consistent success (see: Minnesota’s new boat captain or the second-best Harbaugh brother currently leading Michigan). All of those schools, while they may attract more media attention, are still plagued by inconsistent records of success.
While you may never see the Badgers coming out decked in black or anything resembling metallic, and their offensive style and head coaches may remain far from electrifying by nature, what you will see is the continued commitment to history and tradition that made this program great.
This evident immunity to failure and inability to fall from grace ensures that while other programs try to attract attention and big recruits with pomp and ostentation, the Badgers will keep being the Badgers. Continuing to stay the course and worrying more about results than hype will ensure that when the Camp Randall 200 season rolls around, there will be many more fond memories to reflect on — and knowing UW, probably a few more streakers too.