Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Badgers Football

Photo: UW Athletics
Today the Badgers return to Pasadena for their third year at the Rose Bowl.  More Than Curds is by no means a sports blog (for that, I'd direct you to Lizconsin) but we are all about Wisconsin.  What kind of Sconnies would we be if we didn't talk about football?

The UW Badgers are an institution (literally) that binds our state together.  I never understood states that have two big teams.  No matter where you go in Wisconsin, just mention the Badgers and you'll have some to talk about with everybody.  Sure, this works with the Packers too, but the Badgers have grown and developed alongside our state since the beginning--so much so that our state song is also our football fight song.

Photo: Bleacher Report
Photo: eHow
The University of Wisconsin was founded in 1848 when we were granted our statehood, although it wasn't until 1889 that Badgers football began (college football wasn't established until 1869).  The mascot was not named after the animal but lead miners in the southern part of Wisconsin that would dig shelters into the side of the hills, earning themselves the nickname of "Badgers".  In the early days of the sport, our record was erratic.  The Badgers played only two games in 1889 (losing both), but won the biggest victory in school history the next season by beating Whitewater Normal School -- later UW Whitewater -- 106 to 0.  However the next game saw a humiliating 63-0 defeat against Minnesota which started our inter-school rivalry that continues to this day.  In fact, Wisconsin and Minnesota have faced off 121 times, which makes it the oldest rivalry in Division I football.  This rivalry was formalized in 1930 when the schools began to compete for the "Slab of Bacon", a prize that would go home with the victor until competition the next year.  The Slab tradition was ended when the current trophy, the Paul Bunyan Axe, was established in 1948.  Wisconsin has held the Axe 18 of the last 22 years and holds the overall winning record of 38-24.

Photo: Dial Global Sports
This year, UW Athletic Director and former coach Barry Alvarez is set to coach the Rose Bowl yet again.  When Alvarez was brought on in 1990, he had three losing seasons.  But in 1994 he lead the team to a 21-16 win against UCLA at the Rose Bowl.  This set the pace for his career, earning the Badgers two conference championships and two additional Rose Bowl victories among 11 bowl games overall.  In 1999, they were ranked #4 nationwide.  Alvarez stepped down from the Head Coach position in 2005, paving the way for Bret Bielema, who lead the Badgers to six bowl games in a row.  The past three years saw the Badgers at the Rose Bowl, but this year Bielema has left to join the University of Arkansas, a mere four weeks before a chance to claim a win for Wisconsin.  Alvarez has agreed to step in as the interim Head Coach for the bowl game before they decide on a replacement for Bielema next season.

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