“Get up, stand up, c’mon throw your hands up!” All true Badgers know these words by heart and are immediately sent into a frenzy whenever they hear that beginning fanfare.
The University of Wisconsin-Madison has many gameday traditions. Fans sing along to “Build Me Up Buttercup,” sway arm-in-arm to “Varsity” and jump up and down to “Jump Around.” Although all of these traditions are loved by the masses, many people don’t actually know how they started.
The origin of the song “Varsity” is a little less of a mystery than other famous traditions. According to the Wisconsin Alumni Association, Badgers have been singing the song for decades. A young instructor in the College of Letters and Science wrote a new version of the song in 1898. It was former Band Director Ray Dvorak who established the tradition of swinging together arm in arm in 1934.
Overcome with school pride during the historical "Varsity" mitigates any need for musical talent, however, "Build Me Up Buttercup" is when all Badgers get to show off their amazing singing skills. This tradition started simply because of peoples’ love for the song, according to the WAA, and its popularity grew after the song was featured in the 1998 film, “There’s Something About Mary.”
The fans loved participating in this new tradition, so by the 2000s the song was played at almost all games. To this day, students and fans continue to sing along.
Arguably the biggest gameday tradition at UW-Madison is the song “Jump Around,” by House of Pain. The entire stadium erupts in cheers the moment the starting horns are heard over the speakers. Students, alumni and Badger fans alike jump up and down, shaking all of Camp Randall Stadium.
This infamous tradition can be traced back to the Homecoming football game against Purdue on Oct. 10, 1998. Legend has it that, before the game, Ryan Sondrup ’99, a marketing intern and a tight end who was injured for this game, made a playlist of songs for the stadium with a teammate. Their mission was to find songs that would pump up the crowd during lulls in the game.
The Purdue team, led by a pre-NFL Drew Brees, had the ball at the start of the fourth quarter and was making a rush toward the end zone. Suddenly the sounds of a trumpet fanfare blared through the speakers, and the student section sprang to their feet.
Although both players and fans were immediately infatuated with the song, it was not automatically added to the gameday tradition.
In 2003, the stadium went through some renovations, and UW-Madison administrators asked for the song not to be played at the opening home game. They were concerned that the force of the jumping fans would shake something loose and cause a safety threat.
To say the least, fans were not exactly happy about this decision. People yelled, booed, turned their backs on the field and even put up some improper hand gestures. Order was restored by the next game and the tradition began.
Although songs like “Jump Around,” “Varsity” and “Build Me Up Buttercup” all have an enormous impact on the gameday atmosphere, their influence does not end after the fourth quarter. Or even after the fifth. Their power goes far past the field and into the hearts and minds of the student body.
All these songs have become a significant part of the culture at UW-Madison. “Varsity” is a time when students all stand arm-in-arm and are reminded of the family they have at the university. “Build Me Up Buttercup” is so loved by the students that they continue to sing even after the music ends — a moment of calm and togetherness.
Even though “Jump Around” started as a song to pump up the crowd, it has become so much more. The song has now become a part of the UW-Madison college experience. It is even played at commencement ceremonies, about three-quarters of the way through (obviously) so students graduating can “Jump Around” with each other one last time.
Students, alumni and Wisconsin Badger fans alike are connected by this long-standing tradition as 76,000 fans all jump to the same beat.
A Badger is pretty easy to spot out in the wild. Play those sweet trumpet sounds at the start of “Jump Around,” and — almost like a Pavlovian response — all Badger fans will feel themselves lift to their feet and start jumping all around.