Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Game-Day Experience

One of the blogs I enjoy reading did a bang-up job of chronicling the Badger game-day experience for the UNLV game last Thursday night.  Well, half of the experience, as the blogger’s smart phone, with which he was keeping a video chronicle of the game, died.

My conclusion, even though the blogger was only able to take us to half-time: the best seat for a Badgers game is in front of my big-screen hi-def TV at home.

The post about his game-day experience is a wry look at the hoops through which one must jump just to make it to your (entirely too small) assigned space in Camp Randall Stadium, from the challenge of parking within reasonable walking distance of the stadium, through the assembled multitudes and vendors-of-things-deep-fried-in-hot-grease, to negotiating through the warrens in the bowels of the stadium, and then cramming yourself into the small bit of real estate you’ve paid so dearly to rent.

The pomp of the Division 1-A college football pre-game is chronicled, along with a gallery of still pictures of some of the more colorful individuals who attend these contests.

Big-time college football is a huge financial undertaking, and, as the old saying goes, to run with the big dogs, you need to bring a very large wallet.  It takes a lot of grease to wedge 87 thousand fannies into those expensive seats, and I’m not talking about just paying your athletic director and head coach a million bucks a year or more.

But here’s the subtle point I took away from the post: the Badgers’ goal is to make it to the Rose Bowl.  Not to win the national championship, but to make it to the Rose Bowl.  That’s why they continue to schedule patsies like UNLV (the Badgers won in a rout, 51-17) and Northern Illinois and Saint Rita’s School for the Blind – so they can get the six wins necessary to be “bowl-eligible” and set their sights on Pasadena New Year’s Day.

Scheduling patsies in the pre-season as the Badgers have for decades insures that they will never qualify for the national championship.  The fans by and large seem to be OK with this practice of spending a month playing games where the outcome is never seriously in doubt.  There's only a bit of grousing about it.

But these are tougher times.  Even the corpuscles…the old white guys in the cardinal red jackets…will at some point balk in paying the exorbitant “licensing fees” and “mandatory contributions” necessary to maintain a position in the “good seats” in the stadium.

The Badgers may find themselves in a position where they’re going to have to set their sights higher than the Rose Bowl if they’re going to keep feeding the beast that is NCAA Division 1-A football.


  1. Tim, your need to be the curmudgeon has obstructed your ability to be objective here. First, Northern Illinois is not from a major conference, but they beat a Big Ten team and go on to play in a bowl game just about every year. Calling them a "little sisters" school betrays a lack of knowledge about college football. UNLV sucks, no question. But there was no indication that Oregon State, UW's other non-conference team, would be out of the Top 25 when Bucky scheduled them a few years ago.

    Also: Parking and walking to a game at Camp Randall is part of why a helluva LOT of people love Wisconsin games. Unlike many sporting events which feature parking lot tailgating, you get to actually see the city and campus before and after a Badgers game. It's such a unique experience that Minnesota used it as a motivator to build its stadium back on campus after playing in the arguably more comfortable and accessible Metrodome for years.

    Finally: If Wisconsin had beat Michigan State on the road last year, the Badgers would have played for the national title, regardless of its preseason schedule. Just check out the non-conference slates for the last three national champs (Auburn, Alabama, Florida).

  2. Jason:


  3. Tim, I don't think that UW-Madison has the money to .....ahhhh....*field* ....a national-champ contending team.

    (wink wink wink)

    And frankly, I'd rather see the resources go to the bio-med/engineering stuff they're doing (some exceptions, of course.)

  4. Yeah, every Division I powerhouse schedules patsies early on, partly to fatten their records, but also because patsies don't require a return game, at which the powerhouse collects only a visitors' check and not the bonanza of a home game. And I would dispute the fact that there's little grousing about UW's policy--the Wofford and Cal Poly games were highly controversial, and once people get over the early-season Russell Wilson-based excitement, they'll grouse about South Dakota as well. But if Minnesota can schedule USC, then so can we, and one of these years, we should.

    Agree also with Jason that getting to the game is as much a part of the game as the game itself. Our gamedays begin with a lap around the Farmer's Market, the walk down State Street, pregame at Union South, and another walk to our gate to reach our seats. (Depending on the opponent, the energy during that latter walk can be incredible--as OSU last year, so Nebraska this year, I expect.) That pregame ritual, which we'll enjoy in full this Saturday, is our single favorite thing about living in Madison.

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