Two losses

There were two more reminders of the passage of time this past week.

One was reported by Rolling Stone:

Glen Campbell, the indelible voice behind 21 Top 40 hits including “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Wichita Lineman” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” died Tuesday. He was 81. A rep for Universal Music Group, Campbell’s record label, confirmed the singer’s death to Rolling Stone. During a career that spanned six decades, Campbell sold over 45 million records. In 1968, one of his biggest years, he outsold the Beatles. …

Campbell was a rare breed in the music business, with various careers as a top-level studio guitarist, chart-topping singer and hit television host. His late-career battle with Alzheimer’s—he allowed a documentary crew to film on his final tour for the 2014 award-winning I’ll Be Me—made him a public face for the disease, a role President Bill Clinton suggested would one day be remembered even more than his music.

“He had that beautiful tenor with a crystal-clear guitar sound, playing lines that were so inventive,” Tom Petty told Rolling Stone during a 2011 profile of Campbell. “It moved me.”

Campbell was a hugely popular singer, which may have obscured his guitar talent.

The other is reported by

Phyllis Leckrone, 81, the wife of UW Marching Band director Mike Leckrone, and the woman known to band members as “band mom” has died.

UW Marching Band spokesperson Jay Rath said, “She was a mother to generations of band students and her impact will live on in those countless lives.”

“She loved the whole Badger Band Family. She was known to many alumni members as the band mom,” a post on the UW Band Alumni Association Facebook page said.

A native of North Manchester, Ind., Phyllis and Mike met in junior high school and became childhood sweethearts. They were married 62 years. Phyllis taught with the Middleton-Cross Plains school district for more than 25 years, according to a news release.

Leckrone died early Tuesday morning surrounded by family after a long illness, Rath said. She is survived by her husband, five children, eight grandchildren and three great grandchildren. …

In lieu of flowers, the family asked that memorials be made to Phyliss’s favorite charity, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital,

The first thing to know about the Leckrones is that they were married for 61 years.

I saw Phyllis a couple of times every year — on the two epic road trips we took, to the Hall of Fame Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., and Las Vegas, and at the annual UW Marching Band banquet in the Memorial Union. (Three words: “Fudge Bottom Pie.”) Compared to performance Mike, she was quiet. For that matter, non-performance Mike is quiet compared to performance Mike. I went to their house a couple of times as a rank leader; the Leckrones invited band leaders to their house before rehearsals began.

I also have become Facebook Friends with some of their kids. The only consolation I can offer is that it is the natural order of life that parents die before their children; no one who is a parent wants the reverse to happen. (There are, sadly, several people I marched with who have since passed away.)

Mike Leckrone became the UW Band director in 1969. So Phyllis had to share Mike with 200 to 250 college students every year for nearly 50 years. We remember Phyllis fondly.

Fight, fellows! Fight! Fight! Fight! We’ll win this game!

What a fine and unusual time we Badger fans find ourselves in these days.

I wrote last week that the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament selection committee screwed the Badgers by lining up a potential second-round meeting with the tournament’s overall number one seed, Villanova, which was an obvious attempt to get rid of the Badgers as soon as possible. Instead …

… the Badgers have suddenly, and crazily, become a Final Four favorite after ending Villanova’s chance to repeat as NCAA champions. Wisconsin plays Florida at [UW–] Madison Square Garden in New York today at 9 p.m., with the winner playing seventh-seed South Carolina or third-seed Baylor Sunday for, in the Badgers’ case, their third Final Four trip in four seasons.

Did you ever think you would read a paragraph like this, from the Los Angeles Times?

No team left in the NCAA tournament is as used to being in the Sweet 16 as Wisconsin. The Badgers are in their fourth straight regional semifinal, a feat no other team can claim. They have also reached the round of 16 in six of the last seven years.

SEC Country reports the prediction of ESPN’s Dick Vitale:

The ESPN commentator, who is helping fans make prediction’s using the Allstate Bracket Predictor a predictive tool that analyzes a number of statistics and probability metrics, added that while many were picking the Badgers to advance, he likes Florida to move on the Elite Eight. Vitale did hedge a bit in that the Gators could be in for trouble against a very good Wisconsin front court.

“The thing that scares me with them is that this might be the time they really miss John Egbunu. He was a tough kid and a physical rebounder and gave them unbelievable defense,” Vitale said. “But in this game he could be a major loss because the one problem you deal with against Wisconsin is they get great spacing but their two bigs in Ethan Happ and Nigel Hayes. They cause major problems for Villanova and could do the same for Florida. And that could be the case for Florida.”

Egbunu tore an ACL against Auburn back on Feb. 14 and will not play again this season. The Gators struggled against teams with strong front courts, notably Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The Gators seek their first Elite Eight appearance since 2014, when the Gators advanced to the Final Four.

At this point you might see similarities between this team and the 2000 Badgers, which had a most unexpected Final Four trip after knocking off number-one-seed Arizona in the second round. For those who don’t remember, though, that 2000 team was predicted by absolutely, positively no one to get to the Final Four. As stated previously, if the Badgers win tonight and Sunday they would make their third Final Four trip in four seasons, their number eight seed notwithstanding.

The thing that makes one pessimistic is that the Badgers have to play at the top of their game in order to win; they don’t have enough talent to win despite playing poorly in some aspect of the game. (Except, apparently, free throw shooting, given that the Badgers shot worse than Villanova Saturday, but the Wildcats’ missed free throws, particularly the last one, hurt them worse than the Badgers’ misses hurt them.)

So is defense and experience at this level enough?


Coming this fall: An all-heart halftime show

Big news from Madison reported by Samara Kalk Derby:

Observant Badgers fans may be wondering why legendary band conductor Mike Leckrone has been missing from the NCAA basketball tournament games.

It’s because the 80-year-old conductor, known for his agility and stamina, recently underwent double-bypass surgery.

According to Jay Rath, marketing manager for UW band concerts, the heart surgery took place Jan. 24, and Leckrone didn’t return to band rehearsals until last week, when he met with the 300-member Varsity Band for two hours before Spring Break.

Leckrone, the marching band’s conductor for 48 years, received permission from his doctor to return that morning. There was loud applause and some tears from the Varsity Band, as the marching band is known during the spring semester.

For weeks, band staff explained only that Leckrone’s absence was due only to a “procedure,” Rath said.

Leckrone said he was anxious to get back. Besides tournaments, the band’s biggest event of the year, the Varsity Band Concerts, are coming up April 20, 21 and 22 at the Kohl Center. About 21,000 people attend the concerts each year, according to UW.

The theme is “Nobody Does It Better,” a song from the 1977 James Bond film, “The Spy Who Loved Me.” It was chosen before Leckrone went in for surgery.

The theme was meant as a compliment to the band, but lately, band members have suggested that it apply to their leader instead. Others have informally renamed the concert, “This One’s for Mike.”

(Side note: I played “Nobody Does It Better” as part of a James Bond halftime show for Homecoming. That was in 1983. Yes, I am from the first half of Leckrone’s UW career.)

Besides conducting, emceeing and cracking jokes, Leckrone is known for his stunts, like his tradition of flying through the air with wires and doing somersaults above the audience.

The flying has been firmly ruled out now, Rath said, but Leckrone is looking for other activities.

“The honest truth is that I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to be able to do,” he said in a press release. “We’re kind of planning contingencies, with a Plan A, Plan B and Plan C.”

Leckrone will not travel with the band to Friday night’s tournament game, but he’ll be there next week if the Badgers advance.


My NCAA pick is … no one

The NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament starts today, if you don’t count the “first four” games earlier this week.

I have for a few years posted on this blog one or more (per tournament) brackets, because I am fine with public self-deprecation. I am not doing that this year, though my opinion about self-deprecation hasn’t changed.

Given the traveshamockery of the NCAA’s seeing Wisconsin — the team that finished second in the Big T1e4n, one of the Power Five conferences, and second in the Big T1e4n tournament — 32nd, lining up a second-round loss to Villanova Saturday, I refuse to support the tournament. I will not watch any game that doesn’t include Wisconsin, including the Final Four. (I have to work late Monday nights anyway. The last national championship game I saw was 2015, and I didn’t watch the 2013 or 2014 title games.)

One assumes the Badgers’ poor seeding is the result of their poor play in February. What that means, of course, is that no other month of the season apparently matters. Your conference record? Irrelevant. Whom you beat? Who cares? The entire season? So what?

I am aware that UW is probably not as good as sixth through 10th best in Division I, which is what you’d expect a Power Five runner-up to be. That translates to a second or third seed, which is better than the various power ratings. But if you believe those, which generally had UW in the early 20s, then UW should have gotten a sixth seed. There is a huge difference between a sixth seed (which gets you an 11th-seed first-round game, then a game between the 14th or third seeds, then most likely the second seed) and an eighth seed, particularly when the selection committee deliberately put UW into the same regional as Villanova, the overall number one seed. There is only one reason to do that, and that’s to get rid of that team as soon as possible because the NCAA doesn’t like UW’s style of play or Greg Gard’s suits or whatever stupid rationale the selection committee wants to use.

So I don’t care who wins the tournament. Except for UW games (and that’s a big if too), I won’t be watching it.


A Wisconsin voice from the past

If you are old enough to remember the Glory Years Packers, the answer to the question of who was the Packers’ announcer those years might be Ray Scott, from CBS-TV.

Unless you missed their home games on TV because you lived near Green Bay or Milwaukee in the old NFL blackout days, in which case the answer might be radio announcer Ted Moore:

And if you’re not old enough to remember Moore, surely you remember Jim Irwin:

Before Moore, who started announcing Packers games in 1960, there was Mike Walden, who announced Badger, Packer and, on TV, Milwaukee Braves games. One of Walden’s games was the 1963 Rose Bowl, which he announced on the NBC radio broadcast with USC announcer Tom Kelly:

Apparently Walden liked southern California, because he then left Wisconsin and moved to California, replacing Kelly on radio while Kelly moved to TV.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

USC’s broadcaster Mike Walden was in enemy territory when the Trojans’ basketball team finally handed UCLA its first loss at Pauley Pavilion in 1969. When it was over, Walden climbed atop the announcer’s table and yelled, “The Trojans win! The Trojans win! The Trojans win!” much like the legendary Harry Caray.

So Walden lost a few friends several years later when he took a job across town and became the only person to serve as the broadcast voice for both USC and UCLA.

“But Mike Walden was a journalist first, and did not want to be known as a homer,” his son, Gregory Walden, reminisced in an email.

Walden, a Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame member best known for his coverage of the Trojans and Bruins, and for his loud sport coats, died Sunday at his home in Tarzana from complications related to a stroke, his son said Thursday. He was 89.

The interesting thing about the aforementioned Walden, Kelly (who died in June), Enberg, Miller and longtime Los Angeles Lakers announcer Chick Hearn is that they all grew up in the Midwest. Kelly’s first radio job was in Janesville, and though he started broadcasting for USC in 1962, he returned to Illinois for years to broadcast the Illinois state boys basketball tournament. Miller was one of the two UW hockey radio announcers (two stations broadcasted games until Clear Channel purchased both stations). Enberg is from Michigan, graduated from Central Michigan University, and earned a Ph.D. at Indiana while announcing its games before he too headed west. (Hmmm … do I know anyone who grew up in Wisconsin and then headed to California …) Hearn, who grew up in Illinois, preceded Kelly (for one season) at USC, and once worked with Kelly on the Illinois state tournament.


Badger Jeff

The UW Athletic Department reported sad news yesterday:

The Wisconsin Department of Athletics is saddened to learn that Jeff Sauer, UW’s men’s hockey coach from 1982 to 2002, has passed away at the age of 73.

Sauer led the Badgers to 489 victories, the most victories for a UW coach in any sport. He guided Wisconsin to the 1983 and 1990 NCAA titles. In addition, the Badgers won WCHA regular-season titles in 1990 and 2000 and WCHA playoff crowns in 1983, 1988, 1990, 1995 and 1998.

Sauer was inducted into the Wisconsin Athletics Hall of Fame on Sept. 16, 2016.

“Our entire athletic department family is saddened to hear of the passing of Coach Sauer,” Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez said. “Jeff was a hockey man through and through. He had a passion for the sport and for coaching, and his imprint on the game will be felt forever through the lives he touched. Our hockey programs at Wisconsin benefitted greatly from Jeff’s influence. I want to extend the condolences of Wisconsin Athletics to Jeff’s family, friends, colleagues and former players.”

“Coach Sauer’s record speaks for itself, but he’s just done so much besides coaching hockey,” UW men’s hockey coach Tony Granato said. “That is the part I will miss most about him. He was about caring for people and sharing. I watched him volunteer endlessly for both the U.S. Sled Hockey and Hearing Impaired teams and watched him do anything that was asked of him for any special situation that was needed.

“He was just a great person and anyone that has had the pleasure of knowing him, playing for him or that was touched by what he gave us was just so lucky to have him as a coach and friend.”
“It’s a tough day, certainly for the people that were close to Jeff and knew him,” UW women’s hockey coach Mark Johnson said. “He was a great man and a tremendous ambassador for the game of hockey.
“I’ve known him since I was seven or eight and he has had an impact on my career, whether as a young player, a college player or coach. He was the one in 1980 that convinced my dad, after their Friday night game between Wisconsin and Colorado College, that my dad should fly out to Lake Placid that Saturday to watch our gold medal game. Obviously Jeff and my dad were extremely close, my dad coached him when he was at Colorado College and he was an assistant coach for my dad. They both loved baseball and both got involved in hockey and had a passion for the game.
“He’s going to be missed for a lot of reasons. He was great for the sport, he ran a great program at Colorado College for 11 years and he took over for my dad here in the early 1980s and did an outstanding job for 20 years, winning a couple of national championships. I coached with him here for six years and I played under him with different national teams.
“Jeff was also instrumental in the foundation of our women’s hockey program as he was a great friend to the program, especially in the early years. He has impacted my life in a lot of different ways and I want make sure people are praying and their thoughts are with Jamie and the rest of his family. I’m sure they are stunned by his passing and it is a sad day for the hockey community, especially for the people that were close to him.”

Andrew Baggot chronicles Sauer’s accomplishments:

One: Sauer succeeded an icon and found a way to create his own championship legacy.

Bob Johnson was that legend. He built the Badgers into a perennial powerhouse, winning three NCAA titles from 1973 to ’81 before Sauer took over in 1982 and produced two national championship-winners of his own.

Two: Sauer left the college game as a coach in 2003, but instead of easing into retirement, he took his generosity and love of hockey to the disabled and excelled on an international stage.

In addition to coaching Team USA in the Deaflympics, he led the American sled hockey team to two Paralympic gold medals.

Three: Sauer nurtured a coaching tree that has some prominent local branches.

One of Sauer’s former assistant coaches, Mark Johnson, oversees the four-time NCAA champion women’s hockey team at Wisconsin. On the other UW bench is first-year head coach Tony Granato and associate head coaches Don Granato and Mark Osiecki, all of whom played for Sauer and the Badgers.

When the new staff was unveiled last March, Sauer was included in the welcoming video and beamed throughout.

“You could see how proud he was,” Tony Granato said.

The roles were reversed last September when Sauer was inducted in the Wisconsin Athletics Hall of Fame as a host of former players looked on.

“The day resonates with me just because I was able to get there,” said Rob Andringa, whose grew up in Madison and played four years for Sauer.

“It was such a great feeling to see him,” Osiecki said.

Osiecki and Tony Granato had lunch with Sauer in late autumn and the three men spoke enthusiastically about the future. Granato made sure Sauer knew he was welcome to visit the Kohl Center offices or practice any time.

Many colleagues and confidants were stunned by the news of Sauer’s death and its cause, pancreatic cancer. He attended a UW game against Michigan State in early January, but was hospitalized not long after that. …

Sauer was born in Fort Atkinson, graduated from Colorado College in 1965 and spent 31 seasons coaching college hockey at his alma mater and Wisconsin.

He amassed 655 career wins, which ranks among the top 10 all-time, and a program-best 489 victories with the Badgers from 1982 to 2003.

Osiecki said his enduring lesson from Sauer was about psychology.

“Allowing personalities to come out,” he said. “That’s one of the things he did well.

“We always talked about him being a conductor of the orchestra. Knowing what you had in the locker room and never really constricting it so much and let the personalities come out. His teams played to that.”

Osiecki spoke from Minneapolis, where he got the news while having breakfast with his father, Tom. It turns out that Sauer and Tom Osiecki played on the same Twin Cities-based bantam team growing up.

With Sauer behind the bench, Wisconsin won an NCAA title in 1983, but many refused to give him due credit because the roster was comprised of Johnson’s players.

The critics were silent in 1990 when the Badgers swept the Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season and playoff crowns on the way to claiming the national championship.

Andringa, Osiecki and Don Granato played on that team. Andringa and Osiecki were defensive partners when UW hammered Colgate 7-3 in the NCAA title game at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. Andringa and Granato were co-captains the following season.

Andringa recounted how emotional Sauer became in the winning dressing room.

“We did this together,” Sauer told them. “You guys deserve this. You are like sons to me.”

Andringa said Sauer was one of those coaches who appeared on the fringe of team pictures, not out front.

“He love being a part of what is special about being on a team and in the locker room,” Andringa said. “That closeness.”

Andringa said one of Sauer’s greatest strengths was “the way he allowed us to be the 20-year-old kid who could make a mistake. He could laugh and joke about a prank.

“He was so good at being in the moment.”

Following an icon like “Badger” Bob Johnson isn’t easy.

“You look at history and I don’t care what sport you pick, there’s not too many people who can succeed after a legend,” Andringa said of Sauer. “He was able to do that.”

Mark Johnson, Bob’s son, was an assistant under Sauer from 1996 to 2002.

“He was a great man and a tremendous ambassador for the game of hockey,” Johnson said. “He’s going to be missed for a lot of reasons.”

Paul Braun was the long-time radio and TV voice of the program. Not long after getting the dreadful news about Sauer he was sifting through hundreds of cassette tapes from UW games long ago, many featuring his good friend and fellow golf aficionado.

“He was one of the classiest people I’ve ever met in my life,” Braun said of Sauer. “A guy who had impeccable integrity.

“What I liked about him was that he was just Jeff. He was the same all the time.”

At one time, Joel Maturi, a former high school basketball coach, was the UW Athletic Department administrator in charge of overseeing men’s hockey. He remembers Sauer ribbing him good-naturedly about his suspect background, but being a patient teacher.

Maturi went on to serve as athletic director at Miami (Ohio), Denver and Minnesota, all hockey-centric schools.

“I owe my career to Jeff Sauer,” Maturi said. “Every place I went from there was because of hockey and because of what I learned from Jeff.”

After his college coaching career ended, Sauer lent his wisdom to WCHA commissioner Bruce McLeod, USA Hockey – with former UW player Jim Johannson in a supervisory role – and wound up serving as a mentor to a host of coaches, players and officials at all levels.

Tony Granato said that selfless love of the game is Sauer’s enduring legacy.

“That’s an incredible man,” he said. “After all he had done for so many kids in our program, players and people that he touched, to say, ‘You know what? I have more to give.’

“That’s what makes Jeff Sauer remarkable. It’s the stuff he did for people, period.

“You’re so thankful you had him in your life, but you also wish he could be around here every day to watch and still be a part of it.”

There are certain people (and they know who they are) who never gave Sauer much credit because he didn’t match Johnson’s accomplishments at UW. Well, who could? That’s like saying that Johnson wasn’t as good a coach as Herb Brooks because Johnson only won three NCAA titles and didn’t win Olympic gold.

I had a couple of encounters with Sauer when I was a UW student. I interviewed him once about the crazy possibility of an on-campus arena, which a dozen years (and a $25 million contribution) later became the Kohl Center. Then I interviewed him as a sports intern for a Madison TV station. He was helpful and friendly in both cases.

Being in the UW Band gave me a view of his work during games. He wasn’t a screamer, at least during games. He seemed to be the same whether the Badgers were up or down, which is less entertaining to watch than the screamers, but probably more effective. He also would occasionally crack a smile at some of the Band’s wittier observations about the game.

Unfortunately I was a victim of bad timing in that Sauer won his first national championship the year before I became a UW student, and won his second two years after I graduated. (However, I made the trip to Detroit to see the Badgers brush off Colgate.)

The 1990 Badgers accomplished what only one other UW team did — sweep the WCHA regular-season and tournament championship and the NCAA title.

I also saw him last May, when he spoke to a group of 12-season high school athletes, who played sports in every season in their high school years. He spoke to the students about lessons you learn from sports and what you get from sports (which is less about the accomplishments and more about how you get there). I told him I was a student when Sauer had the only successful major sports program (i.e. program that brought in revenue) at UW.

He was a great ambassador for hockey and for UW.


Badger Bob

The New York Times explores the influence of former UW hockey coach Bob Johnson:

If there is such a thing as a hockey gene, Bob Johnson surely had it.

Twenty-five years after his death, Johnson’s influence extends from the N.H.L., where he helped pave the way for American college players and coaches in a league then dominated by Canadians, to N.C.A.A. hockey, which he endlessly promoted.

Johnson died of brain cancer at age 60 on Nov. 26, 1991, six months after leading the Pittsburgh Penguins to their first Stanley Cup in his only year as coach.

Yet his signature saying, “It’s a great day for hockey,” is still painted above the stick rack outside the team’s locker room at PPG Paints Arena, which opened in 2010. It also hangs from a banner at Honnen Ice Arena at Colorado College, where Johnson started his coaching career in 1963.

Johnson built Wisconsin’s modern program beginning in 1966 and led the Badgers to three national titles from 1973 to 1981. His impact is felt in women’s college hockey, too, where his son Mark has coached the top-ranked Badgers to four national titles since 2002. And the youth hockey camp Bob Johnson started with Art Berglund in Aspen, Colo., in 1964 is still thriving, now run by Johnson’s sons Mark and Pete and his grandson Scott McConnell.

Johnson’s importance remains larger than games and championships won. Much of what he did beginning 50 years ago was greeted with rolled eyes and guffaws, but is now commonplace throughout the sport: an emphasis on conditioning, fundamentals practiced in on- and off-ice drills, and a creative, up-tempo style reliant on one-touch passes and carrying the puck into the offensive zone.

Jeff Sauer, who played for Johnson at Colorado College and succeeded him as coach at Wisconsin, remembers him emphasizing nutrition, even scrapping the traditional pregame steak dinner for toast, honey and chocolate milk so his players would have energy in the third period. He also recalls off-ice drills with tennis balls to promote dexterity.

Phil Bourque had played more than 200 N.H.L. games over six seasons before Johnson took over a veteran Penguins team in 1990. Bourque, a color commentator on the team’s television broadcasts since 2000, said Johnson often had the Penguins work on the most basic skills.

“Now, if I see a coach doing a real simple drill, I think of him,” he said.

“Ahead of his time” is how many describe Johnson, whose heartfelt belief that hockey should be fun and his embrace of innovation defined his coaching style. Exposed to the European game during his years coaching United States national teams, Johnson filled notebooks with drills and plays he witnessed, especially from the Soviet coach Anatoly Tarasov.

The last tie

Mrs. Presteblog and I went to the final UW football game in 1995, a 3-3 tie with Illinois.

Little did we realize (or too cold to appreciate) we were watching history in the making. That was the final tie in college football.

Adam Rittenburg describes the details of a game as dull as the score would lead you to believe:

The sport introduced overtime in the 1995 postseason and for all games in 1996, which meant Illinois-Wisconsin, the regular-season finale, would become the final deadlocked collegiate contest.

Some of college football’s most famous games ended in ties, including the 1966 Notre Dame-Michigan State clash, billed as the “Game of the Century.” Other notable ties include the 1946 Army-Navy contest and the 1973 Ohio State-Michigan game, which led to a controversial vote about the Big Ten’s Rose Bowl participant.

The Illinois-Wisconsin tie, meanwhile, was in a different category.

“It generated nothing,” Lisheron said. “It was two feckless teams going back and forth. I’ve been at games where Wisconsin has taken it on the chin, but I’ve never been to a worse football game because nothing happened. Neither team moved!”

Those on the field shared the sentiment.

“The game itself it’s probably one of those everybody-wants-to-forget-it games,” Wisconsin offensive lineman Chris McIntosh said. “Did anybody leave that day happy?”

Despite the general dullness, the game featured more subplots than points.

This is the story of The Last Tie.

Bevell’s last stand

Darrell Bevell deserved a better sendoff. He had been the face of Wisconsin’s football renaissance, coming to Madison by way of Northern Arizona University and a two-year Mormon mission in Cleveland. In 1993, he set team records for pass yards (2,390) and pass touchdowns (19) in leading Wisconsin to its first Big Ten title and Rose Bowl appearance in 31 years.

But Wisconsin was 4-5-1 — yes, the Badgers tied Stanford earlier that season — entering Bevell’s senior day. He didn’t make it to end of the game.

Wisconsin’s uncharacteristically inconsistent run game and young and mediocre offensive line left Bevell exposed to a ferocious Illinois defense, led by Kevin Hardy and Simeon Rice, the Nos. 2 and 3 overall selections in the 1996 NFL draft.

“Bevell got knocked all over the stadium,” recalled longtime Wisconsin broadcaster Matt Lepay. “He kept getting up. I was thinking, ‘Dude, get off the field.'”

Illinois didn’t record a sack in the first half but piled up hits on Bevell. One in particular, delivered by Rice and Hardy on a pass, deposited Bevell on his side, leaving him with terrible back pain.

“Darrell would play through anything,” Badgers offensive tackle Jerry Wunsch said.

Bevell pushed forward. It was senior day. His parents were in the stands. His abdomen ached at halftime, but the trainers couldn’t tell him the exact cause.

With three minutes left in the game, the pain had peaked and Bevell couldn’t even bark the cadence. He hobbled off the field and went to the locker room on a golf cart. Before taking X-rays, he used the restroom and urinated blood.

“I still had my cleats on and I was looking at this little X-ray tech,” said Bevell, now the Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator. “I remember saying, ‘I’m going, I’m going.’ I just felt it. I ended up passing out.”

An ambulance transported Bevell to University Hospital, where he entered intensive care. The diagnosis: a lacerated kidney. His abdomen had filled with blood until it “couldn’t bleed anymore,” he said.

Had the blood gone through the lining in Bevell’s abdomen and into his legs, he would have needed surgery.

“I was real fortunate,” he said.

After reaching the hospital, Bevell immediately wanted to know whether Wisconsin had won the game. That’s when he heard about the tie.

“It sucks, it sucks,” he said. “You don’t feel like you win or lost. It’s like, ‘What did we do?’ There’s no credit either way.”

Illini bowled over

A win over would have made Illinois bowl eligible, but it wouldn’t have guaranteed a spot. Athletic director Ron Guenther had spent the days before the game furiously brokering bowl options. He proposed a scenario: if Illinois and Iowa won their last games and Michigan State lost its finale, Iowa would go to the Sun Bowl, Michigan State to the Liberty Bowl and Illinois to the Independence Bowl. Illinois had played East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl the previous year, and organizers didn’t want a rematch.

But MSU coach Nick Saban didn’t want the Liberty Bowl, either, as the school hadn’t enjoyed its experience there two years earlier. If Michigan State had won its last game, it would have gone to the Sun Bowl, and Iowa would have accepted the Liberty Bowl, freeing up the Independence Bowl for Illinois. But a Spartans loss meant they would go to the Independence or Liberty, and they wanted Shreveport.

After a week of talking with bowl officials, television networks and schools, Guenther told the Chicago Tribune that Illinois’ bowl hopes were “on life support” entering the Wisconsin game. Guenther’s big selling point remained the Chicago TV market.

“I remember being in the press box with these guys who had flown in from the Independence Bowl,” Guenther said. “I had one of our donors with us, and we came down to stand on the sideline.”

They stood there in the final minute as Illinois drove to the Wisconsin 36-yard line. The Illini lined up for a 54-yard field-goal attempt that, if successful, would almost surely win the game.

Guenther watched the ball flip toward the goal posts, right on line. It fell a few feet shy of the crossbar.

“In my opinion, it’s worse than a loss,” Guenther said.

The AD went to the locker room afterward, as he always does. But he had no idea what to say. The bowl reps? They just left.

“We knew 6-5 was going to put us in [a bowl],” Hardy said. “There’s a bit of emptiness. You didn’t win, you didn’t lose, but the game is over. You’re looking at the scoreboard and you’re like, ‘3-3, that’s ridiculous.’ This is our last game playing for Illinois. It’s like, ‘What’s going on now?’ I do remember being in the locker room and some guys were wondering, ‘Do we still have a chance?’

“We didn’t have a losing season, but we didn’t have a winning season, either.”

‘Maybe a foot short’

The plaque still hangs on Bret Scheuplein’s wall at his home in Florida.

It reads:

AT&T Long Distance Award
Brett (sic) Scheuplein, Illinois
Longest Field Goal
November 25, 1995

Perhaps the ultimate irony of The Last Tie is that it featured the longest made field goal in college football that week, a 51-yarder Scheuplein converted midway through the fourth quarter. The kick turned out to be Scheuplein’s career long and earned him a national honor.

It was a cool day, 40 degrees at kickoff, but not overly windy or frigid for Wisconsin in late November. Scheuplein kept a hunting boot over his right foot to keep it warm and nearly forgot to remove it before kicking the 51-yarder.

But it was his second attempt, the 54-yarder in the final minute, which lingers.

“It was actually a very good kick,” Illinois punter Brett Larsen recalled. “He hit it well. I don’t remember what that wind was doing, but as soon as he hit it, I think he thought it was good. If I remember right, he kind of put his hands in the air, like, ‘Yeah, that’s good.’ And then it just fell short. It was like a yard short or a half-yard short, right in front of the crossbar.”

Scheuplein thought he had it, until he didn’t.

“No one was hard on me,” he said. “It wasn’t like I missed a 25-yarder. They knew it was a long shot. But it’s the ones you miss, those are the ones that stick with you, especially when they’re that close.

“As a kicker, you can’t beat yourself up too much. But that one stung.”

Swan song for a man in stripes

Wisconsin-Illinois was college football’s last tie game, but for the Big Ten officiating crew at Camp Randall Stadium, it also marked the final game for J.W. Sanders, the field judge that day. Sanders had started officiating Big Ten games in 1975 before moving to the NFL for most of the 1980s. He returned to the college game for his final few seasons on the field.

Referee Dick Honig gathered his crew for dinner in downtown Madison the day before the Wisconsin-Illinois game. The crew then returned to the InnTowner Madison, a few blocks west of the stadium, for their pregame meeting.

That night, line judge John Kouris read a passage he had written for Sanders to the crew.

An excerpt:

When we step unto a torrid stadium floor in late August or stand tall in the November snow, wind and rain amidst the catcalls and epithets, we are not officiating a college football game. We are instead standing at the edge of time and looking into eternity. And for those precious moments when we are sprinting down the sidelines with wide receivers less than half our age or jumping into skirmishes with young men twice our size, we are quenching our collective thirst with short sips from the fountain of youth.

We are the September winds sweeping across Midwestern towns — Coal City, Cloverdale, Newton, Delphi — and hosts upon hosts of silo-filled, steeple-attended villages. We are the parched breath of autumn and the harbinger of summer’s death.

Kouris said officials often got on one another for “showing a sensitive side,” but Sanders appreciated the tribute.

“J.W. was a very well-respected official,” Kouris recalled. “He was always leading clinics and helping those of us wanting to get to the Big Ten. He was a prince of a guy.”

The officials had reviewed overtime rules during their clinic before the 1995 season. After the game, Kouris approached Honig.

“If this game was next year, we’d still be playing,” he said. “We’d be freezing our ass off a lot longer.”

Hollow in history

When the game ended, those involved didn’t give much thought to their involvement in a small piece of college football history.

Even as they reflect on the game more than two decades later, the feelings aren’t overly fond.

Wisconsin offensive tackle Jerry Wunsch: We just did all this work, blood, sweat and tears, people broke bones and no one got anything. It feels like a loss because you didn’t win. The result is so deflating, actually.

Illinois linebacker Kevin Hardy: It’s not one of those situations we could have done anything different. There wasn’t that, ‘Oh no, it can’t end like this!’ But in hindsight, we would have liked to be able to decide it.

Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez: It was just blah. You feel like nothing was accomplished. So the game’s over, you don’t win, you don’t lose, you can’t celebrate. I wouldn’t have wanted to be a fan in that stadium.

Illinois punter Brett Larsen: There’s something to be said for history. That does make it intriguing, especially Notre Dame-Michigan State [in 1966], some of those games. But I’m definitely in favor of overtime rules and giving somebody a chance to win.

Wisconsin linebacker Tarek Saleh: Many years later, it’s OK to talk about. I wouldn’t want to advertise it, especially when I was 22 years old. Now it’s hey, we were part of something. You would rather have won the game and moved on, but it’s fine to be mentioned, somebody remembers you for something. So it’s not the worst thing in the world.

Well, neither are ties, but having witnessed and announced several, they’re just unsatisfying. It’s as if the game was never played at all. I refer overtime, even if my team loses in overtime.


On Saturday night writes about a stadium I spent five years in but bears little resemblance to then, thanks to things like …

David Gilreath never planned on becoming a Wisconsin Badger. Instead, he arrived for a visit intent on reaffirming his commitment to Minnesota. The wide receiver prospect attended high school 12 miles from the Metrodome and hadn’t experienced a college game anywhere else.

Then, he witnessed the power of Camp Randall Stadium.

“You get a sense of what college football is supposed to be like as far as the fans,” said Gilreath, who found himself looking into the stands as much as he watched Wisconsin beat Penn State back in 2006. “Being out there, it was pretty crazy, seeing the Jump Around, seeing the wave they do, seeing the chants, how packed it was. I wasn’t used to that. I remember that being the main factor. That was one of the main factors of saying I’m going to Wisconsin — the stadium.”

So it was only fitting that four years later, Gilreath would be responsible for producing one of the most memorable and loudest plays in the stadium’s long history when he returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown against No. 1 Ohio State. As the crowd of 81,194 erupted under the lights of a primetime matchup, the ground shook beneath Gilreath’s cleats. It felt, Gilreath said, like a movie starring the players. They rode that emotion to a 31-18 upset victory, and students stormed the field to share in the revelry with the team.

“I think it has to be one of the best atmospheres in college football,” Gilreath said. “This is a huge stage you’re on, and fans are right on top of you. It overwhelms the other players a little bit.”

The X’s and O’s are important. Camp Randall Stadium, however, could represent one of No. 8 Wisconsin’s biggest advantages when No. 2 Ohio State visits Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, ABC). The Badgers’ playoff dreams are at stake, and they’re listed as a 10.5-point underdog. But, as Gilreath or anyone else who has played there will tell you, don’t overlook the Camp Randall affect, particularly at night.

“It was pretty nuts for a 3:30 kick,” said Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, whose last visit there was a 2012 overtime victory. “It’s going to be loud — really loud.”

Camp Randall Stadium, the fourth-oldest facility in the FBS, provides a home-field advantage that is generally considered among the best in the country. Since the start of the 2004 season, Wisconsin has compiled a 75-9 record there (.893 winning percentage). Among Power 5 programs, only Ohio State (80-9, .899) has won a higher percentage of its home games in that time frame.

During big night games, when Camp Randall is the center of the nation’s attention as it will be Saturday, the place is notably manic. It’s so loud even Jim Harbaugh was speechless back when he played at Michigan. And with all due respect to Virginia Tech’s heavy metal entrance from Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” or Tennessee’s rendition of “Rocky Top,” nobody rocks like Wisconsin when “Jump Around” blares through the stereo system.

Come for the football, stay for the party and even walk home through a Civil War camp. When you say Wis-con-sin, you’ve said it all.

“There’s a game that’s labeled homecoming, but every game is a homecoming, I think, for people at Camp Randall,” said Matt Lepay, in his 23rd season as the Badgers’ football radio play-by-play announcer. “It’s a social gathering, and the fact the team has been pretty good more often than not makes it that much better. It’s more than a football game that gets people there.” …

Ryan Sondrup’s football career had ended prematurely because of an injury, and the former Badgers tight end began his last school year yearning for a way to fill the void. When he opted for a volunteer role with Wisconsin’s athletic marketing department in 1998, he couldn’t have known that search would spawn one of the great traditions in college football.

Sondrup, who spent three seasons on the team, believed part of the game-day experience felt stale and inquired with his bosses about how to enhance fan involvement. The response: Create a list of ideas and get back to us. Several concepts fell by the wayside, but one that seemed feasible to Sondrup was compiling a CD playlist to amp up the crowd.

One night at Wando’s, a popular downtown bar and grill, Sondrup and a few friends on the team began scrolling through the Jukebox. Up popped House of Pain’s 1992 hit “Jump Around,” a song with a high-energy introduction that encouraged everyone to — what else? — jump around.

Eyebrows raised, and the group shared a collective thought: Hey, this could be something.

“That was our big moment, our big momentum-building idea to get the student section raucous, so to speak,” Sondrup said.

Sondrup presented his playlist to Kevin Kluender, an assistant marketing director at Wisconsin. Earlier in the season, Kluender had been searching for the right entertainment combination before the fourth quarter began. The stadium featured a primitive message board with a student section race, the dots ticking frame-by-frame across the screen. Kluender would follow up by playing a random song.

But everything changed during Wisconsin’s only home night game that season on Oct. 10, 1998, against Purdue. Boilermakers quarterback Drew Brees was in the process of setting an NCAA passing record by completing 55 of 83 throws, and the game had begun to drag on. After the third quarter, Kluender scanned Sondrup’s playlist trying to liven up the fan base. He settled on “Jump Around.”

“My back was sort of to the student section a little bit,” Kluender said. “I could see that people are pointing and looking. I turned around and saw everyone jumping. It just kind of looked like popcorn. You had never seen anything like that.”

Added Sondrup: “Kevin cranked that on, and the place went nuts.”

The stadium shook and the press box swayed, infusing a new energy into Camp Randall. Wisconsin went on to win the game 31-24 on its way to a Rose Bowl appearance.

Kluender played the song during Wisconsin’s final two home games, but it wasn’t until the following season when he realized what a gem the school had on its hands. Even during nonconference blowouts against overmatched opponents, students stayed in their seats just so they could bob their heads and hop up and down to “Jump Around.”

Controversy briefly followed in 2003, when Richter, then the athletics director, asked for the song not to be played in the home opener against Akron because the stadium was under construction, and he feared the shaking could be dangerous. Outrage reached such high levels that Chancellor John D. Wiley was forced to step in. He announced “Jump Around” could be played the next week during a home game against UNLV after a study determined the building would remain structurally sound.

“Man, you should’ve seen the people when the song didn’t happen,” Richter said. “All of a sudden, boos. I got emails and letters from people saying, ‘It’s a right that we have.’ It didn’t take long for the administration to change it. I said, ‘This is a good way to leverage some of the profanity that will happen if you don’t play Jump Around.’ The administration decided to bite the bullet.”

In the years since, “Jump Around” has been cemented as a staple, alongside renditions of “Sweet Caroline” and “Build me up Buttercup.” It has quickly become considered one of the best traditions in college football, and Saturday will mark the 91st consecutive home game in which “Jump Around” is played, providing an energy jolt that is difficult to replicate elsewhere.

“You see other stadiums try to do it,” Sondrup said. “They’ll play ‘Jump Around,’ and you kind of laugh. To see the student section embrace it, I think it’s that energy of Camp Randall. They’re the ones that took it and ran with it and made it what it is. It’s just a great place to play.” …

Devotion is 40,000 fans braving bitter cold and a three-hour football game to stay for a 20-minute performance from the school’s band so they can participate in the largest Chicken Dance you’ve ever seen. Mike Leckrone has witnessed the madness, known as “The Fifth Quarter,” up close for decades as Wisconsin’s band director. Yet explaining the popularity of those postgame shows remains elusive.

“That’s part of the mystery of the Wisconsin fan,” Leckrone said. “We get all these people to do crazy things, and they’ve done it for years and years. I don’t know that they’ve ever been able to do anything quite like it anywhere else in the country. People have called me and said, ‘Tell me about this Fifth Quarter.’

“Wisconsin fans are very gregarious, and what we try to do is feed on that and give them some things back that they can pick up on and then have fun with us, too.”

Leckrone arrived in 1969 to serve as director of the school’s marching band and took over as director of the entire band in 1975 — a role he holds today at age 80. During the early years, the football team inspired little confidence while in the midst of a 20-game winless streak. On-campus protests during the Vietnam War meant few students were interested in wearing a uniform and marching military style. But Leckrone, whose childhood fantasy was to lead a Big Ten band down the field, never wavered in his enthusiasm while leading postgame shows despite minimal interest.

Curiosity started to pique during a famous 1978 home football game against Oregon. The band had begun rotating through a series of commercial jingles, including the Budweiser tune, “Here Comes the King,” with a style imitative of a typical German band. Leckrone seized on the opportunity after fans previously showed great interest in the Beer Barrel Polka. With the help of his band, Leckrone convinced students to change the lyrics from “When you say Budweiser, you’ve said it all,” to “When you say Wisconsin, you’ve said it all.”

During that Oregon game, he played the song on multiple occasions and worked the crowd into a fervor, which coincided with a Wisconsin comeback victory. The song became such a hit that the upper deck of Camp Randall Stadium swayed when it was played, prompting then-athletics director Elroy Hirsch to tell Leckrone not to play the song during games.

Instead, Leckrone had the public address speaker make an announcement that it would not be played until five minutes after the game had completed to allow concerned fans to exit, intentionally making a big fuss to spotlight his band’s postgame show. The momentum for the song led local sports writer Glenn Miller to dub the performance “The Fifth Quarter” — a name that has stuck ever since. The shows became so popular in lean football seasons that Leckrone noted more fans arrived at the end of the game than during.

“What Mike has done there through the years means a lot to people with the game-day experience,” said Lepay, the longtime radio announcer. “When you see the band, you see they’re having a good time. They’re getting involved. The fans see that, they know that, and they like to have a lot of fun with it.”

Leckrone has continued to find ways to entertain fans over the years, expanding the band’s repertoire. He incorporated the “Chicken Dance” after the school’s crew coach, Randy Jablonic, returned from a trip to Europe and suggested Leckrone play it at games. In the 1980s, several of his band members began mimicking Pee Wee Herman’s “Tequila Dance,” and the song quickly found its way into the postgame performance. His biggest failure, he said, was a rendition of the Macarena that students booed because they were fatigued of its popularity in the 1990s.

Did someone say “Tequila”? I was there for that:

His biggest failure, he said, was a rendition of the Macarena that students booed because they were fatigued of its popularity in the 1990s.

While Leckrone can’t fully express why the band’s performance has become so important to fans, its role in enhancing the game-day atmosphere has proven to be nearly as vital as the actual game.

“We have about 20 minutes of solid stuff that is just foolishness in a lot of ways,” Leckrone said. “But it’s fun stuff.”

The party pulls into town again Saturday for a top-10 battle with playoff implications, and football will only be half the fun. Welcome to Camp Randall Stadium.


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