It's hard to make a visit to Madison, Wisconsin without coming into some sort of contact with something that has to do with the University of Wisconsin Badger football team. The Badgers sport one of the most loyal and rabid football fan bases in the Midwest.
The University of Wisconsin Madison is Wisconsin's oldest public university. The school was founded in 1848 when Wisconsin was incorporated as a state. Article X, Section B of the state constitution provided for "the establishment of a state university, at or near the seat of state government..." The university is also the largest public university in the state with a total enrollment of 41,480 students in the fall of 2005. This makes the university the tenth largest in the United States in terms of student population.
The Wisconsin Badger football team is perhaps Wisconsin's best known and best loved college sports team. The Wisconsin Badger football program has been among the most successful in the Big Ten since the early 1990s when Barry Alvarez was became the head coach. Since then, they have won 3 Rose Bowls and 3 Big Ten Championships. The Badgers also beat the Auburn Tigers in the 2006 Capital One Bowl. Bret Bielema has taken over the post of head coach since Barry Alvarez stepped down after the 2005-06 season.
Barry Alvarez, born December 30, 1946 near Pittsburgh, is a former college football head coach and current Director of Athletics at the University of Wisconsin. At Union High School, Alvarez won all-conference recognition and played in the Big 33 All-Star Game, an invitation-only exhibition game for Pennsylvania's top seniors. After graduating Alvarez left Pittsburgh and attended the University of Nebraska, on a football scholarship graduating in 1969. After college, he coached high school football in Nebraska and Iowa. After coaching high school football, Alvarez began his college coaching career under legendary Iowa head coach Hayden Fry in 1979. He later became an assistant coach at Notre Dame under Lou Holtz. In 1990, Alvarez was named head coach of the Wisconsin Badgers. In 1994, Babcock Hall, which houses the University of Wisconsin's dairy school, developed a raspberry, strawberry, and blueberry ice cream flavor called "Berry Alvarez" in honor of the Badgers coach. He remains the winningest coach in Badgers history.
A high point for Alvarez and the Wisconsin Badgers was the Rose Bowl on New Year's Day of 1994. The Badgers defense forced six turnovers, while the offense churned out 250 yards rushing as the Badgers downed UCLA 21-16. More than 70,000 Badger fans attended the Badgers' first-ever New Year's Day bowl victory.
The Wisconsin Badgers play their home games at Camp Randall Stadium which has a capacity of 80,321. The student section at Camp Randall is considered by many to be one of the most spirited in all of college football, packed with student fans every Saturday.
Two Badgers have won the prestigious Heisman Trophy in the history of the program. The first was fullback Alan Ameche in 1954. More recently, in 1999, running back Ron Dayne, who now plays for the Denver Broncos in the NFL, won the prestigious award. Both these players' jerseys have been retired since and their numbers are on display at Camp Randall.
The Wisconsin Badger team colors are cardinal and white. The mascot of the Badgers is named "Buckingham U. Badger" but is commonly referred to "Bucky Badger." Bucky the badger was first drawn by local Wisconsin artist, Art Evans in 1940. An actual real live badger from Eau Claire, Wisconsin was used at the first couple football games that year but proved to be too fierce to be controlled properly and was retired to the nearby Henry Vilas Zoo. Curiously, the school replaced the live badger with a live raccoon named Regdab ('badger' backwards). In 1949, a Bucky head-piece was created and a contest was started to properly name the mascot. The winning entry was, of course, Buckingham U. Badger.