Category: Badgers

Who’s in first?

As predicted Wisconsin men’s basketball season fell apart after the departure of guard Kobe King.

To quote from the 1980s: Not (Or “Psych!”) other than the “as predicted” part.

To the contrary, as Jake Kocorowski reports:

The Wisconsin Badgers can accomplish something special on Saturday.

With a win against Indiana, UW (20-10 overall, 13-6 Big Ten) can clinch at least a share of the regular season conference crown. It already has locked down a double-bye in the upcoming Big Ten tournament in Indianapolis next week, but the Badgers’ 63-48 victory over Northwestern on Wednesday has given the program a chance to finish atop the league’s standings.

After all this team has gone through in the last year, to be within a game of earning the Big Ten regular season title, what does it mean to junior Brad Davison?

“Aww man, it’s a blessing for so many reasons,” Davison said after the win against Northwestern. “Going back to the summer, going through the season, just how our team stuck together and (has) really come together and now we have an opportunity to play for the Big Ten regular season title. That’s why you come to school at Wisconsin. That’s why we all wanted to put the W on our chest, to have these sort of opportunities.

“With what we’ve been through, just makes you appreciate the moment and appreciate the opportunity, appreciate the relationships with your teammates and your coaching staff. And man, it’s something that we’re really looking forward to and something we don’t take for granted. I think that’s kind of the biggest thing that we’ve learned over this year — don’t take anything for granted, especially a moment, and an opportunity like this. Because like I said, this is why you come to Wisconsin — to compete for championships in the Big Ten and in the national tournament. We put ourselves in a position to do that, and now we just go out there and take it.”

As of Thursday morning, Wisconsin, No. 16 Michigan State and No. 9 Maryland hold a three-way tie for first place. …

The Badgers will have their hands full [Saturday] with a Hoosiers squad trying to secure an NCAA Tournament berth. Indiana (19-11, 9-10) and its fans will likely have Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall rocking this weekend.

Just to be in position for a share of the title is a huge accomplishment given where the Badgers’ season appeared to be headed after King’s departure and Davison’s one-game suspension before a huge home game against Michigan State.

MSU coach Tom Izzo was critical of his own team after the Badgers’ 64–63 win, but said, “As disappointed as I am with our performance and a little embarrassed. I am happy for (Greg) Gard. I am a coach’s coach. We got our a– kicked by a team playing for their coach.”

Ryan on Bobby

One of the great early-generation players in UW hockey history was Bobby Suter, a small yet fierce defenseman who played on the Badgers’ 1977 national championship team and the 1978 Frozen Four team.

That’s how Badger fans know Suter, the second most penalized player in UW history, and the most penalized defenseman in UW history. (He also set a record by getting five points in a period in one game.)

Everyone else in the hockey world knows Suter as a member of the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, which is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice.

Ryan Suter (who is second place in UW freshman-season penalties) knew Bobby Suter as Dad:

Red, gold and green

This is not an attack of ’80s music nostalgia.

This is about Wisconsin’s Rose Bowl trip for New Year’s Day — the 10th in UW’s history, but the seventh since Barry Alvarez arrived on campus — and the Packers’ upcoming playoffs.

Each seems to not entirely impress people. The Badgers lost twice to Ohio State (whereas everyone else the Buckeyes played until Clemson lost just once) and had a bad loss to Illinois. No other UW Rose Bowl team had a bad loss on their schedule, except the 1994 (Minnesota), 1999 (Cincinnati), 2010 (Michigan State), 2011 (ditto) and 2012 (five of them) teams. The list does not include the 1998 Badgers, who nonetheless were so unimpressive to ESPN’s Craig James that he called them the worst team to ever get to the Rose Bowl … which then made them the worst team to ever win a Rose Bowl, I guess.

UW in fact never seems to impress anyone because of its traditional plodding style, except perhaps for the Russell Wilson season. When Paul Chryst was UW’s offensive coordinator, the Badgers ran the same plays, but they were much better disguised. They appear to have gone backwards with Chryst as the coach for some reason. Jack Coan hopefully won’t be the quarterback next season (once Graham Mertz is off his redshirt), but there really is no game-breaking receiver on the roster, including Quintez Cephus. On the other hand, Chryst is so far undefeated in bowl games, so whether fans like the style or not, the substance is a lot of wins. (Remember, no one complains about boring winning offenses.)

The thing about the Rose Bowl is that it’s not just about football. The UW Marching Band is in Pasadena for the first time with new director Corey Pompey.

Pompey appears to have made improvements without getting rid of the important things.

The second Bucky vs. Ducky Rose Bowl matchup features the Big Ten’s second best team (which is playing longer than its champion is) against a team that surprised most football observers by upsetting Utah, a team thought to be in contention for the College Football Playoff, in the Pac 12 championship game. The Ducks are 15th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring offense, while Wisconsin is 10th in scoring defense. Wisconsin is 22nd in the FBS in scoring offense, while Oregon is eighth in scoring defense. However, most observers seem to believe the Big T1e4n is a better conference than the Pac 12, which struggles to have a CFP-worthy team and in fact hasn’t had one the past couple of seasons.

This will probably be the key: UW is 14th in rushing offense, while Oregon is 10th in rushing defense. Oregon is 43rd in rushing offense, while UW is eighth in rushing defense. That favors Wisconsin, unless the Badgers put the ball on the ground.

Speaking of unimpressive yet successful, there are the Packers, which had to overcome a 17–3 halftime deficit to beat the Lions on (once again) a game-winning field goal Sunday. That makes the Packers the number two seed for the upcoming NFC playoffs, giving the Packers a week off and a second-round home game against Philadelphia (which beat the Packers on a tipped interception), Seattle or San Francisco (which hammered the Packers in Santa Clara) in round two Jan. 12.

At the risk of grandiose predictions, this team sort of reminds me of the 2010 Packers, which needed to win their final two games of the regular season to get into the playoffs, and then had to win three road games to get to the Super Bowl. Teams with struggling offenses and relatively stout defenses (though there was much complaining about this year’s defense for the number of points they gave up in wins) tend to win games like Sunday’s.

The converse is the 2011 Packers, which were an offensive machine on the way to a 15–1 regular-season record, only to lose at home in their first playoff game. You’ve heard the phrase offense wins games; defense wins championships. (A more amusing take comes from former Vikings coach Bud Grant, who observed, “Defense wins games; offense sells tickets.”)

The NFC frankly is not that good this season, which makes one think any of the six playoff teams could get to the Super Bowl. Yes, that includes Green Bay. The Packers also could lose their first playoff game.


Postgame schadenfreude, Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts edition

Minnesota kind of ruined Wisconsin’s football season and the final home game of UW Marching Band director Mike Leckrone by beating the Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium one year ago.

Well, you know what payback is.
We begin with Megan Ryan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

Rashod Bateman’s eyes shimmered. Tanner Morgan’s voice hitched.

But Winston DeLattiboudere looked like he always does: upbeat.

The Gophers had just left the TCF Bank Stadium field Saturday drenched with sweat and melted snow, disheartened from a 38-17 defeat to border rival Wisconsin. This loss didn’t just lose them Paul Bunyan’s Axe and the bragging rights that go with it. It lost the Gophers a chance at their first Big Ten Championship Game and likely their first Rose Bowl since 1962.

Bateman and Morgan, as sophomores, have two more opportunities to reach that goal and more. DeLattiboudere is done, just a bowl game left a long month from now before the final grain of sand in the timer of his college career falls.

Yet the underclassmen were visibly dejected, guilt heavy on their shoulders. They felt personally responsible for letting a close game — they trailed by three points at halftime — escalate into a blowout loss.

“My job was to go out there and play every snap as hard as I can for them because I just wanted to see them go out with a bang,” Bateman said of the seniors. “But we failed at that.”

DeLattiboudere, though, was doing exactly what players in this senior class have done their entire careers and especially this extraordinary season: leading.

“I’m overcome with emotion,” DeLattiboudere admitted, saying seeing his mom about to cry after the game nearly got to him. “But I feel like the young guys — everybody else in this senior class knows just as well as I know — that they look to us, that they’re going to mimic our behavior, our actions. And right now, it’s OK to be upset. We’re human beings. But we’ve got to keep our head held high because we’ve got one more game to play.”

They could have had at least two. All the No. 8 Gophers (10-2) had to do was beat No. 12 Wisconsin in front of a sold-out home crowd of 53,756 to keep their goals of a conference title, Rose Bowl or even College Football Playoff appearance still intact.

For about three minutes, the Gophers held those in their grasp. The defense forced a three-and-out, and the offense scored a 51-yard touchdown pass from Morgan to Bateman on the second play to take the early lead.

But that was the last time the Gophers commanded the game. Even when DeLattiboudere forced a fumble that Carter Coughlin recovered, Morgan threw an interception into double coverage on the resulting possession. Wisconsin used that takeback to score its first points, a 26-yard field goal.

From there, it was pretty much an onslaught. While the Gophers statistically achieved their goal of limiting Wisconsin’s potent rush and Heisman Trophy running back Jonathan Taylor, it wasn’t enough. The Badgers spread their 173 rushing yards between players, and Taylor still scored twice. Quarterback Jack Coan also exceeded expectations, completing 15 of 22 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns while producing several explosive plays, including his longest 70-yard pass.

The Gophers, meanwhile, couldn’t find their balance. They allowed a big kickoff return to the 39-yard line that set up a score that put the Badgers up two touchdowns in the third quarter. The Gophers then trekked through an arduous drive, only to turn the ball over on downs just outside the end zone. Wisconsin turned that into a touchdown, too.

Morgan endured five sacks, one where he coughed up the ball at the 18, gifting the Badgers another fourth-quarter score. A third-quarter field goal and consolation 12-yard touchdown catch late in the game were the only other Gophers points.

Morgan finished 20-for-37 for 296 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. He set the record for single-season passing yards at 2,975, Bateman took the single-season receiving yards record at 1,170, and Tyler Johnson tied the Gophers’ record with 31 receiving touchdowns.

But those records didn’t make Wisconsin chopping down the goalposts any easier to witness. Nor did it soothe the ache of disappointment at not playing in Indianapolis for the Big Ten title next weekend.

That was the game story. The dump-on-them-while-you’re-down comes from sports columnists — for instance, the Strib’s Chip Scoggins:

They were two steps behind in the biggest game of their lives. In physical talent and in coaching decisions. That’s how it felt watching the Gophers slosh through a moment rich in hope.

They looked skittish on the big stage. Overmatched. Every move and matchup countered by a checkmate.

This was a loud thud, considering the stakes. A chance to win the Big Ten West and turn remaining skeptics into believers. A sure ticket to the Rose Bowl, at a minimum. Paul Bunyan’s Axe.

Poof. Gone. In the worst possible way.

The Wisconsin Badgers left no doubt which side boasts the superior team in the 129th meeting of border rivals, putting a 38-17 thrashing on the Gophers in a snow globe at TCF Bank Stadium.

“We did not play well enough to win the Big Ten West today,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said. “That doesn’t mean we’re not a good enough team to win the Big Ten West this year. We weren’t good enough to win the Big Ten West today.”

Problem is, football isn’t a best-of-five series. There aren’t do-overs in a one-game judgment. The team that plays the best gets the trophy and reward.

The Badgers claimed the West title and will play Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis next Saturday. The Gophers must wait to learn their bowl destination, knowing they had history at their fingertips and failed to grab it.

It’s wrong to call any 10-2 season a failure, especially at Minnesota, which is new to this neighborhood of relevance. The Gophers will still play in a desirable bowl game in a warm-weather locale. In time, people will reflect on this season with positive memories and potentially as a turning point for the program.

But this is about today, the present. Their season had a chance to be special, which is why this clunker should bring supreme disappointment.

The Gophers held a two-game lead in the division with three games remaining and failed to close the deal. They were sloppy in a loss at Iowa. And they were smashed by the Badgers. Two quality opponents, two poor performances.

One win would have guaranteed their first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1962. The buzz locally reflected that hope. More people invested emotionally in the program. This is a kick to their shins, though Fleck tried hard to soften the blow.

“Let’s not start thinking, ‘Well, that’s typical [Gophers],’” he said. “That has to be out of our system. There are going to cynics, there’s going to be doubters and critics. But the true fans, what we want them to do is get that completely out of their mind because we are not going back to that.”

Big picture, sure, the program is on the right path. The season established different historical achievements. But that doesn’t mean people can’t or shouldn’t feel frustrated, or question why they performed so poorly with everything at stake, or fume over coaching decisions.

Leading 7-0 in the first quarter, the Gophers had a chance to make a statement, but Fleck went ultra-conservative. On third-and-2 from the Badgers’ 35, offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca called a Wildcat run for Seth Green, who was stuffed for no gain.

On fourth down, Fleck opted to punt. From the 35. With two of the best receivers in college football and an accurate quarterback on his side.

Fleck defended his decision, saying he wanted to manage field position and believed two yards was too risky. His lack of aggressiveness felt deflating.

The Badgers, meanwhile, went for it. They played with their foot on the gas the entire game. They exploited matchups and mistakes and dominated both lines of scrimmage.

The Badgers dug into their bag of tricks and repeatedly pulled out gold. Trickery on a kickoff return netted 56 yards. They scored a touchdown on an end-around. A screen pass on third-and-long went for 70 yards.

– after a timeout, no less — and settled for a field goal.

It was a baffling performance in many regards, but the overarching difference was unmistakable: The Badgers were physically better, and they were ready for the moment. They deserved the mad dash to reclaim the Axe.

The Gophers left the field quietly, the scene and mood in stark contrast to the raucous celebration after their upset of Penn State three weeks ago. Anything felt possible that day. A division title. A trip to Pasadena. Heck, maybe even a spot in the College Football Playoff.

What a buzzkill.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press’ Bob Sansevere adds to the buzzkill:

The Gophers finished the regular season with a 10-2 record. It’s not as impressive as it looks.

Just one of their 10 wins had you go, “Wow!” The victory over Penn State, and that’s it.

The Gophers lost to Iowa a couple of weeks back and were routed 38-17 Saturday by Wisconsin, crushing dreams, hopes, aspirations, etc., of this being a spectacular season.

“It comes down to making plays, and we just didn’t make them,” Gophers coach P.J. Fleck said.

On a day when there was sleet and snow and a flurry of big plays by Wisconsin, the Gophers lost because the Badgers were better and because they still haven’t figured out how to handle success.

Handling success is a huge step in the maturation of a team. The Gophers experienced success in beating then-No. 4 Penn State on Nov. 9. That win wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t program-altering, either. After a 9-0 start — where they stood after Penn State — the Gophers lost two of their last three games.

Over their dozen games, the Gophers roused a fan base and injected excitement into a program that has been mostly average for the past half-century. Fleck and his players deserve a hearty clap on the back for that, but, really, what did they do on the field that was extraordinary?

There were fun wins and memorable performances from the likes of Tanner Morgan, Rodney Smith, Tyler Johnson, Rashod Bateman, Antoine Winfield Jr. and others. There were some stirring moments Saturday, too — such as a 51-yard touchdown pass from Morgan to Bateman on the U’s second play from scrimmage.

After that, they were outscored 38-10. Even as the score became more lopsided, they didn’t fold like a cheap bingo chair. They kept trying, kept battling. What they didn’t do was rally.

The Gophers were good this season, just not good enough. They offered snapshots of what could be throughout the season, lifting their profile by spending the past several weeks nationally ranked.

It’s nice, being ranked among the best teams in the country, but if the Gophers are measured the way established, successful programs are measured, they fall short.

There will be no trip to Indianapolis to play Ohio State for the Big Ten Conference championship, no Rose Bowl as a consolation, no more talk of possible greatness.

The Gophers beat nine of the teams they should have beaten and added a signature win against Penn State. Then lost to their two biggest rivals.

You can bet many Gopher fans will applaud the season, but that’s more because of how rare such seasons have been. If you’re under the age of 60, the Gophers have reeked for most of your lifetime. They haven’t played in the Rose Bowl since 1962.

This was the year to do it, to accomplish more than a 10-win season. There was no Ohio State, no Michigan on the schedule. Next season, Michigan and Michigan State will be there, along with Iowa and Wisconsin.

“We have the capability to be whatever we want to be,” Fleck said. “We just accomplished nevers, firsts, restorations. We have older (fans) thinking we can go back to the Rose Bowl. We’ve restored belief in what we can be and what we will be.”

He mentioned several times the Gophers were co-champions with Wisconsin in the Big Ten’s West Division because they have the same record, but that’s not quite the case. He also talked up the 10-win season and every other positive he could muster. It was Fleck being Fleck.

“This is not just the end-all, be-all (game),” he said.

Fleck is a good coach, there’s no denying that. While he and his staff failed to make the right decisions and adjustments in the losses to Iowa and Wisconsin, he will recruit better players than the Gophers have had in years, continue to spout his “row the boat” mantra and likely keep the Gophers above .500 throughout his tenure.

He might even get them to a Big Ten championship game someday. It’s just too bad it wasn’t this year — The Year That Could Have Been.

The Associated Press looks at the revenge theme:

When Minnesota beat Wisconsin last year to stop a 14-game losing streak in the series, the Gophers had much to celebrate.

The Badgers, as it turned out, didn’t appreciate the lengths of the revelry that took place across the border over the past year.

After Wisconsin took back Paul Bunyan’s Axe on Saturday with a victory as decisive as Minnesota’s was last season, the Badgers didn’t hold back in expressing their disdain for the way the 71-year-old traveling trophy was handled by their oldest rival.

”We just felt like they disrespected the axe by renting it out to people,” linebacker Chris Orr said, lamenting the ”everybody can touch it” opportunities that Minnesota staged over the last year at various venues, from the stadium to the state fair. ”It means more than that. People played this game for a very long time. It means more than that. It’s not a commodity or something that you can just rent out for money or whatever the case is, trying to make profit off it. I feel like that was disrespectful. They didn’t honor the players that came before.”

The Badgers avenged their 37-15 loss at home in 2018 with a 38-17 victory, overwhelming the Gophers in the second half with a fierce pass rush and strong pass coverage on defense and sharp play-calling and back-breaking long gains on offense.

When the game went final, a swarm of white-uniformed Badgers converged on the west goal post to perform the ceremonial chopping. With 22 wins in the last 25 years of the most-played series in major college football history, the Badgers have a 61-60-8 edge on the Gophers. Paul Bunyan’s Axe didn’t enter the picture until 1948.

”The worst feeling in the world was losing on our own field and having them take it,” Orr said. ”The best feeling in the world is beating them on their home field on senior day and taking it from them.”

The Gophers not only ended the long losing streak last year, but they became bowl eligible on the final try to end coach P.J. Fleck’s second season with a flourish, beating the Badgers at their own game with a powerful performance on both sides of the ball at the line of scrimmage. With a team that hasn’t finished in first place in the Big Ten since 1967, in front of lagging attendance, the university naturally seized the opportunity to renew some statewide pride in the program.

Fleck was asked earlier this week about complaints by the Badgers about the offseason Axe tour.

”That wasn’t a rub in anybody’s face,” Fleck said. ”There’s people who are very emotional when they had it. We had people rent it out all over. It was at weddings, anniversaries, parties. This year it’s Minnesota’s. That’s what rivalry trophies are. That’s why they’re so passionate. If Wisconsin wins it, they get to share it with whoever they want to share it with. It’s Wisconsin’s. When Minnesota wins it, they get to share it with whoever they want to share it with. It’s Minnesota’s that year. It wasn’t mine. It wasn’t just our players’. It was the state of Minnesota’s. For me, I wanted people to be a part of our football program, to invest more in our football program, see we can do things. It wasn’t like we were holding it out the window driving through the entire state of Wisconsin. That would be showing up. But sharing with our in-state alums, donors, boosters, supporters, I think that’s culture, tradition. I think that’s what the point was.”

Either way, the Badgers have it now.

”It’s going to sting for a little while,” Gophers quarterback Tanner Morgan said. ”That’s football. You’ve got your highs and you’ve got your lows. This is obviously a low for us, but our team will respond. I can guarantee you that.”

I agree with The Cap Times!

The former editor of the newspaper formerly known as The Capital Times, Dave Zweifel:

The much-maligned sculpture dubbed “Nails’ Tales” has disappeared from its spot at the corner of Regent Street and Breese Terrace, one of the gateways to Camp Randall and the old Field House.
While some praised it as a piece of art that did what art should do — draw attention and provoke comments and discussion — most amateur art critics couldn’t have been happier when it was removed. They considered the $200,000 sculpture an eyesore that, instead of depicting the strength and virility of Badger football, looked more like a cob of corn or a phallic symbol.

It has been replaced, although across the street on city property, with a 10-foot-long sculpture of Bucky Badger created by the late Harry Whitehorse, the acclaimed Ho-Chunk sculptor and painter from Monona. He created the life-like Badger so it could be touched and sat on by people who came to see it.
We were talking about that at a luncheon the other day, when Joe Hart, who spent much of his newspaper career on our sports staff, including as sports editor, piped up.

Wouldn’t it be fitting, he said, if the UW would commission and install a statue of one of the football program’s greatest heroes who, unfortunately, seems to be largely forgotten? A kid from Lancaster, Wisconsin — Dave Schreiner.

He indeed was a hero, not only on the Badger football field, but in World War II, where he gave his life in the battle of Okinawa, only a few weeks before the Japanese surrender.

After graduating from Lancaster, Schreiner became one of Badgers football’s most revered players. He was a two-time All-American at end (he played both offense and defense), and was named the 1942 Big Ten Most Valuable Player. As a co-captain of that team, he led the Badgers to an 8-1-1 record. The loss was to Iowa, 6-0, and the tie was with Notre Dame, 7-7, while the big win was over number-one ranked Ohio State.

Following the ’42 season, he joined the Marines and two years later found himself in the Pacific Theater as a lieutenant and company commander in the Marine regiment that was fighting to clear the island of Okinawa of the Japanese.

After he had left to join the military, he was picked as a second round 1943 draft choice by the Detroit Lions. Unfortunately, at age 24, he was shot by a sniper after his unit had been part of the victorious last battle on Okinawa.

Schreiner’s career with the Badgers and the following horrors on the front lines during World War II are detailed in the outstanding book, Third Down and a War to Go, written by Terry Frei — the son of Jerry Frei, one of Schreiner’s teammates on that storied ’42 team.

“In that era you had to be multi-faceted and he was tough and clever,” the author noted. “Most important of all he was a leader by example. Others tended to follow in his wake.”

Camp Randall, of course, was the training center where young Wisconsin men were stationed before being sent to the front lines to fight to preserve the Union during the Civil War.

What an appropriate place to permanently remember a young man who represented everything that is best about Wisconsin football.

Zweifel, a retired Army National Guard colonel, is absolutely correct. It is unlikely to happen, of course, in this era in which, depending on which college student you ask, this country is either no different from any other country or the focus of all evil in the world, any reference to the military glorifies war, and students cannot possibly fathom the idea of sacrificing their own lives toward something more important than they are.


The Badger fauxback

The Wisconsin State Journal reports on tomorrow’s news:

Jonathan Taylor had no problem wearing tan to his high school prom, and he doesn’t see an issue wearing it for a University of Wisconsin football game.

“I’m a big tan guy,” the Badgers junior running back said. “I like tan. You can pull it off if you do it the right way.”

Judging from his reaction to the design Under Armour came up with for the eighth-ranked Badgers to wear Saturday against Northwestern at Camp Randall Stadium, Taylor thinks the company found a tasteful approach.

Tan isn’t in UW’s traditional palette but it’s the color of the team’s pants for this week’s alternate uniform.

Under Armour, the provider of athletic apparel for both UW and Northwestern, said the designs both teams will wear Saturday are inspired by uniforms once worn by each team. The company issued them as part of the season-long celebration of 150 years of college football.

The Badgers have a largely traditional red jersey and white helmet with new touches on each: Large white letters UW on the chest and the same in red on the sides of the helmet. The back of the jersey doesn’t include the player’s name.

UW head football equipment manager Jeremy Amundson said Under Armour used a photo of a late 19th century Badgers football team as a basis and added its own touches.

One of them is the tan pants, which are more of a departure from the traditional white bottoms and carry an accent of a W inside a circle on the front of the left hip.

“When I saw the pants,” said Taylor, who served as the Badgers’ model for a video unveiling the uniform, “I’m like, ‘Yeah, I like it.’”

Instead of the typical process of Under Armour representatives meeting with the team to come up with a design, Amundson said, the idea for Saturday’s uniforms came directly from the manufacturer.

Company representatives approached UW with the idea in May 2018, and the Badgers jumped on board.

Northwestern’s uniforms are out of the same design, only in purple and white and with NU instead of UW.

Amundson said Under Armour appealed to the NCAA to allow the jerseys to go without numbers on the front to more accurately replicate the ones being worn in an 1891 photo, but the organization nixed the idea.

The Badgers haven’t worn a true alternate jersey since 2012, when Adidas made new looks for UW and Nebraska for a 30-27 Cornhuskers victory in Lincoln. Under coach Gary Andersen in 2013 and 2014, the Badgers experimented with red helmets and red pants.

Amundson said there are both practical and historical reasons why the Badgers don’t typically have dozens of jersey combinations like some other schools.

The practical is money. A new set of helmets alone can cost up to $100,000, funds that he said would take away from other opportunities for athletes. For this week, UW is simply replacing decals on its existing helmets and swapping out red face masks for gray ones.

The historical is that, well, the Badgers have typically worn predictable combinations.

“There’s definitely a traditional element to it,” Amundson said. “We’ve never had a kid come here because he’s going to get to wear any fancy uniform. We’re pretty tried and true with our red and white.”

Coach Paul Chryst acquiesced to players’ wishes to change things up for last week’s victory against Michigan and wear the black shoes that were being broken in as part of the new design for this week.

“He was on board,” senior outside linebacker Zack Baun said. “He’s more happy to see the guys energized about it. He’s just happy that we’re happy.”

Other than Taylor, who was in on the plans for the alternate jersey because he wore it in the video shoot, players were unaware of the new look until fall camp.

Saying that the unveiling drew a positive reaction would be an understatement, Baun said.

“Everyone was screaming, yelling,” he said. “I’m pretty sure I was jumping up and down. It’s exciting because we’ve never got to do anything like that.”

It was so well received, senior inside linebacker Chris Orr said, because it’s so different from what’s normal at UW.

“When you put it together from looking at the uniform that they’re trying to imitate, it actually looks good,” he said. “It looks like a new-age version of the old cotton sweaters that they were wearing. I like it.”

At least one Badgers player made it sound like he would just as well play in one of those sweaters.

“They’re just uniforms. Honestly, whatever,” junior center Tyler Biadasz said. “We’re going to be a different color, but we’re still hitting the purple jerseys, I guess.”

This is, of course, ridiculous. The only acceptable throwback uniform is this one …

… from the 1960s Rose Bowl teams.

While I get the tan pants (because all football pants were tan canvas and, for that matter, all helmets were brown leather once upon a time), this goes back to no era of UW football.

The throwback helmet had the W on the front, not a “UW” on the side, and at no point has UW ever used a non-serif number font or had “UW” on the front. These are as useless as the Blue Bay Packers throwbacks the Packers have been unfortunately wearing. And without the names on the back, well, if you’re going to Saturday’s game and you haven’t seen them before tomorrow, your guess will be as good as anyone else’s as to who is whom.

There may be only one way for this stupid trend to stop, and that is for the team that thinks this is a good idea to lose.



Postgame schadenfreude, Hail Hail to Missedagain edition

It was not shocking that Wisconsin beat Michigan 35–14 at Camp Randall Stadium Sunday.

What was shocking was how thoroughly UW manhandled the Wolverines, by some accounts the Big T1e4n preseason favorite.

No photo description available.

Wolverine fans were in an ugly mood, reported by Elaine Sung:

On Saturday, the rumble in Camp Randall Stadium was “Jump Around.” The sounds everywhere else? Screaming, cursing, howling, spitting and shrieking from Michigan football fans.

The No. 10 Wolverines and Jim Harbaugh, who was hired in December 2014 to lead his alma mater to unprecedented greatness, just lost to Wisconsin, 35-14.

The game wasn’t that close. At halftime, the No. 14 Badgers were up 28-0, supremely confident with efficient and steady drives.

Social media got revved up pretty early. Michigan fans expressed outrage, fueled by each incomplete pass. Then it became scorched earth as Wisconsin kept adding the points.

The mocking contingent came out. Khaki pants were not spared. Talk about poking the bear …

DISCLAIMER: If you are offended by foul language, don’t look at the first tweet here.

If you are offended by bad football, we empathize …

You know there was going to be an Ohio State element in here somewhere:

Can you hear the people sing … Urban Meyer in blue and maize?

This is subtle, calm, reasoned and … cold.

This is even colder:

Some fans aren’t even mad now. They’re just sad.

Here we are, weighing in from South Florida:

I think Justin Bieber would be upset by this:

And the khakis, as always, take a hit:

Aaron McMann:

Two weeks and a bye later, the Michigan football team’s offense looks no closer to figuring things out.

And it’s defense, well, they appear to have problems, too.

The 11th-ranked Wolverines were manhandled in their Big Ten opener on Saturday, losing 35-14 to No. 13 Wisconsin while coming up on the wrong end of every major statistical category out there.

Michigan (2-1, 0-1 Big Ten) was out-gained by an extraordinary 487-299 margin, watching as the Badgers opened the game with a 12-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. And it just got worse from there.

Ben Mason, who converted to the defensive line this season, fumbled the football away on his first carry of the season, on Michigan’s first drive of the game. Then the Wolverines had a long pass play to Ronnie Bell reviewed and called back on their second drive.

Jonathan Taylor, an All-Big Ten running back and Heisman Trophy candidate, gashed the Michigan defense from the very beginning. Taylor (23 carries, 203 yards, 2 TDs) had eight carries for 51 yards on Wisconsin’s first drive, then broke a 72-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter.

By that point, Wisconsin held a 14-0 lead and had momentum on its side. The Wolverines were never able to recover. They totaled just 15 first downs in the game, were 0-for-9 on third down and only possessed the football for a total of 17:45.

Meanwhile, while the Badgers found success on the ground, quarterback Jack Coan (13-16, 128 yards) was able to turn to the pass as well. He completed two passes of more than 20 yards as part of a 15-play, 80-yard second-quarter touchdown drive.

Wisconsin possessed the football for more than 41 minutes in the game, limiting the Wolverines’ opportunities for drives.

Michigan’s quarterback, Shea Patterson, was unable to replicate his big game of a year ago. He finished just 14-of-32 for 219 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He also fumbled the football, for a third straight game, in the fourth quarter as Michigan tried to draw closer.

Complicating matters, the Wolverines were never able to establish a ground game: rushing for just 40 yards, with starter Zach Charbonnet (2 carries, 6 yards) appearing limited.

Ryan Zuke:

After No. 13 Wisconsin throttled No. 11 Michigan 35-14 on Saturday in Madison, the narratives were much different for each team.

The Badgers (3-0) are being regarded as a serious threat in the Big Ten after racking up 359 rushing yards and forcing three turnovers on defense.

Meanwhile, the Wolverines (2-1) continued to be criticized for their inconsistent play through the first three games of the season.

Even former Michigan cornerback Charles Woodson had harsh words for his alma mater on FOX’s postgame show.

“This does not look good,” Woodson said. “Right now, I don’t even know how to talk right now. What I could say wouldn’t be the right thing to say because it would be my emotions. What I am telling you now is kind of what I see on the surface. When I get home, I’m going to say some different things, but right now, I am sick about how Michigan football looks.”

Mitch Albom:

That wasn’t a football game.

That was Waterloo.

Forget national playoffs, forget challenging the elite programs, forget even moving the bar higher than last season. The Michigan Wolverines on Saturday looked as bad as they’ve looked since Jim Harbaugh arrived, not losing as much as surrendering a critical Big Ten game for which they had two weeks to prepare.

There’s no excuse. Worse, there’s no explanation. Where would you begin to explain this 35-14 beatdown by Wisconsin — which wasn’t remotely as close as that score suggests? The offensive line got crushed like walnuts. The defense gave up 143 yards to a running back — in the first quarter! The endless series of mistakes, miscues, missed assignments and missed chances stacked so high, watching it was like squinting into the sun.

I watched it, as many of you did, at home, and was left, as many of you were, stunned.  Stunned at the lack of preparation. Stunned at the apparent lack of inspiration. Stunned at the execution, errors and ineffectiveness of the Wolverines in areas they used to be known for, like an offensive line, like a running game, like a defense.

The defense. Oh, Lord. What happened there? The strong suit of the Wolverines with Don Brown directing looked like some weak impostor wearing maize and blue. There were more players out of position than a chessboard overturned by a dog. Wisconsin was all but laughing at the lack of resistance, and went for a fourth down on its own 34-yard line to prove it.

They made it easily.

Jonathan Taylor, the star running back for the Badgers, had such an easy time gaining yards Saturday, he looked like the NFL and the Wolverines like high school. Taylor had 203 yards on just 23 carries — and missed a big chunk of the game with cramps!

As for the Michigan offensive line? Wow. The area once the pride of Bo Schembechler was the shame of the Michigan game film Saturday. It allowed the U-M quarterbacks to be hit or rushed on nearly every play. It opened so few holes, the Wolverines recorded a paltry 40 yards rushing, barely averaging two yards per carry.

And yet for all the terrible performances, the origin of this debacle was, once again, mistakes. As it has been since the season started.

And that, for a program under a coach as accomplished as Harbaugh, is head-shaking.

Let’s just list some of the early mistakes. You’ll see how quickly they add up to disaster.

  • On the Wolverines’ first drive, they hit a huge pass-and-run, then promptly fumbled four yards from the goal line on a handoff to a fullback, Ben Mason, who hadn’t taken a handoff all year. That was their ninth fumble of the year.
  • On the Badgers’ third drive, the Michigan defenders were out of position, allowing Taylor to race 72 yards for a touchdown.
  • On the next drive, U-M drew a pass interference call, but followed it with a foolish unsportsmanlike penalty by Donovan Peoples-Jones. Shea Patterson missed two receivers he could have hit, and the Wolverines wound up punting.
  • In the second quarter, on a fourth-and-3, Wisconsin quarterback Jack Coan again found Michigan defenders out of position and hit a 26-yard over-the-shoulder pass to Quintez Cephus.
  • On the Wolverines’ next drive, Patterson threw an interception.

All that was in the first 25 minutes. I could fast-forward to the final quarter, when Michigan blew a great punt with an illegal formation penalty, or got called for offensive pass interference, or ended its offensive day — and I do mean offensive — with an interception by the third-string quarterback Joe Milton.

But I’m stopping now, before you break something valuable.

Well, we’re not. John Niyo:

There are big questions and then there are smaller ones.

But for now, for Jim Harbaugh and those toiling inside his football program – and possession is at least nine-tenths of the law in college football, in case you hadn’t noticed – there’s no choice but to focus on the latter.

Everyone else will take care of the former after another nationally-televised debacle for the Wolverines Saturday, a 35-14 thrashing at Wisconsin that was worse than the final score indicated. And bad enough that it left one of Michigan’s all-time greats doing some finger-pointing of his own afterward.

“I’m sick about how Michigan football looks right now,” said Charles Woodson, the Heisman Trophy-winning star of the Wolverines’ 1997 national championship team, making his debut on Fox Sports’ studio show Saturday.

Flanked by none other than Urban Meyer, the former Ohio State coach who retired last winter with an unblemished record against Michigan, Woodson wasn’t done preaching to the choir, either.

“I came here with high expectations for how my team was gonna look, in front of you guys,” he said. “And I’ll be honest with you, man, I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed about that.”

He’s far from the only one. As another of his ex-teammates, Hall of Famer Steve Hutchinson, tweeted Saturday, “I think I can speak for a lot of former UM players when I say, forget about winning. How about we just compete?”

And while Harbaugh betrayed few, if any, such emotions after another humbling loss Saturday – that has strangely become the norm the last couple years — he has to know that promises made aren’t being kept.

Sure, he’s 40-15 in four-plus seasons as Michigan’s head coach, and like it or not, job security probably won’t be a real issue in Ann Arbor unless fans stop showing up to games or off-field issues pile up. (It’ll certainly take more than a disgruntled fan painting “#FIRE HARBAUGH” on the “The Rock” at the corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Hill Street.) But Harbaugh’s teams are now 1-6 on the road against ranked teams in his tenure, with half of those losses by three touchdowns or more.

And as Meyer noted on that same Fox postgame broadcast, there are myriad problems for Michigan’s coaching staff to dissect before they can even think about changing that narrative.

“You lift up that hood and you’re not gonna like what you see,” Meyer said. “But you better get that fixed fast.”

How, though? And why? That’s what everyone is left wondering, and not just because Michigan was coming off a bye week and facing an opponent that hadn’t really been tested yet in season-opening routs of South Florida and Central Michigan.

As Woodson said, “It looked like they had never watched Wisconsin football before.” Or if they had, they’d simply forgotten what they saw, because the mistakes started piling up immediately after kickoff for Don Brown’s defense.

Michigan has allowed 1,482 yards and 138 points in its last three games against ranked opponents. And it didn’t take long to sense Saturday would fall right into that pattern. When junior defensive end Kwity Paye got caught diving inside late in the first quarter, allowing Wisconsin to turn a counter play into a 72-yard sprint to the end zone for All-America running back Jonathan Taylor, you could see where this was all headed.

Taylor had 143 rushing yards by the end of that quarter. And by halftime, Wisconsin had made it clear it owned the line of scrimmage, piling up 200 yards on the ground and converting three fourth-down situations with ease, the latter a quarterback keeper that saw Jack Coan dive into the end zone almost untouched.

Out-coached, out-prepared, outplayed? Check, check and checkmate.

Because on the other side of the ball, the Wolverines simply look lost. There’s no other way to describe it after three games and these results.

Michigan finished Saturday’s game with just 40 yards rushing on 19 carries, four more turnovers – that’s nine now for the season – and a stunning 0-for-10 on third-down conversions, something the Wolverines haven’t done since at least 1995.

Where to start, though? That’s the most troubling part for Michigan, and perhaps the reason why the players seemed to be at such a loss to explain what had just happened in Madison: Their head coach was, too.

“We were outplayed,” Harbaugh said at his postgame press conference. “Out-prepared, out-coached, outplayed. The whole thing. Both offensively and defensively, it was thorough.”


Multimedia Mike

With Mike Leckrone’s final UW Band concert(s) on Wisconsin Public Television Saturday at 7 p.m., we combine a UW–Madison College of Letters and Science interview and photos plus several YouTube videos and occasionally snarky commentary by myself:

My approach to teaching has always been that is it has to be fun. But at the same time, I have a reputation for being demanding, because I try to get students to constantly elevate their own standards. My approach has always been, “You’ll have a lot more fun if you get really good at what you’re doing.”

1971. Note the nearly empty upper deck.
So now I know the black band W debuted in 1972. This was also the year I saw my first UW football game. (Badgers 31, Syracuse 7.)
1975. Michigan 23, Wisconsin 6, which counted as a moral victory for UW in those days.

Music is one of those disciplines where you only get better if you do the repetitions. Anybody who has played an instrument knows that it’s the practice and the repetition that get the fingers working the way that they need to work. But we live in an era now where it looks so easy, and people forget the groundwork that has to be laid. We lose sight of that sometimes when we look at the finished product.


1976. Perhaps this should be called The Two Faces of Mike — official (in plaid polyester bell-bottoms) …
… and the version the 5,000 of us in the band over 50 years got to experience.
1978 Official Mike …
… and again our own special version. I believe this was the first or second year I went to a UW Band concert. claims this is 1985, but it is 1983 or earlier because in 1984 the black band W was replaced by the white band W.

I had an arranging professor many, many years ago who said you have to get the paper dirty. And what he meant was, if you’re writing an arrangement, the first thing you do is put something down on paper. And then analyze.

1981. Why is Mike happy? Look at the scoreboard. It was the first time in maybe ever that UW beat Michigan (then ranked #1, but not after they left Madison), Purdue and Ohio State, making it look like the Badgers might go to the Rose Bowl. Sadly, Iowa got in the way.
1991. Not-very-impressive pointed toes. On the other hand, he was my age now, and at the band concerts my marching style wasn’t very impressive either.

We interrupt this photo essay to bring you …

1994, after UW’s first Rose Bowl win, before the Ohio State road trip.
Late 1996, before the 1997 Outback Bowl in Tampa.

If you study things like the notebooks of Beethoven, you see how many versions he had of the Fifth Symphony or the Ninth Symphony that never came to light. And I’ve been listening to some Elvis radio, for the outtakes, the things he didn’t use and how many he would do until he got that feeling that was right. I think with any artist you’d find those trials and errors.

1998. The Badgers lost this week to Michigan, but, reversing 1993, Ohio State beat Michigan the next week to open the path for UW’s return to Pasadena by beating Penn State.
Disneyland in December 1998 before the 1999 Rose Bowl, when Wisconsin beat UCLA again.

Sorry to interrupt again, but …

1999. After going to the Rose Bowl one season earlier, the only way UW could go back to the Rose Bowl was by winning the Big Ten title outright. So they did. About time the football team was as good as the band.

One of the things that I talk about constantly with students is that your worst enemy is complacency. I get my own motivation partly from trying to motivate students. When I see that they will respond to the demands that are made on them, that more or less increases what I want to demand from them. So it becomes a circle.

And Mike becomes a bobblehead in 2003 …
… before he gets his own cow, “Mookal Leckrone,” in 2006.
2007 tryouts. Some people have to learn that Stop at the Top and toe-pointing thing, but I was a freshman once too.
That season resulted in another trip to Tampa for the Outback Bowl. UW went to the Outback Bowl so often that you’d think Barry Alvarez had a condo there.

I talk a lot about the moments that you pull upon when other moments don’t go well. I like to call them moments of happiness. To be successful, you can’t dwell on the non-successes, on the frustrations and the bad things that are inevitably going to happen. I think if you can learn to set aside the bad and dwell on the good things, you’re going to succeed. That may sound a little Pollyanna-ish, but I firmly believe it and that’s basically the way I approach everything.

Mike with UW–Madison chancellor Biddy Martin before the 2011 Rose Bowl, the first of three consecutive Rose Bowl trips. It took Leckrone 24 years to get to a Rose Bowl, but then UW went to six in the next 19 years.

It’s hard for me to process what’s next because I’ve been so active my entire life. I don’t want to sit and just meditate. I’m not planning an around-the-world trip. I’m not planning to go to Florida and play golf. But I like all kinds of music and I do miss the opportunity to just listen. I will probably do a lot more of that when I have the time.

2017 vs. Florida Atlantic. Patriotic songs we played included “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” a medley of “America” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic,” and “Promised Land.” Mike stirred some controversy when he pointed out during a controversy over “You’ve Said It All,” more popularly known as the “Bud Song,” that the Star Spangled Banner’s music came from “To Anacreon in Heaven,” a British drinking song.
Mike in 2017 with Milwaukee-born Steve Miller, who created …

You have read here about Leckrone’s phrase, “moments of happiness.” In November he told the Wisconsin State Journal, “I realize what I do is not the most important thing in the world. I haven’t contributed to any great discoveries. I’ve brought a few smiles to people’s faces.”

Is that not one of those “moments of happiness” for someone else, though? Imagine (if you weren’t there) the ecstasy of the Fifth Quarter in Pasadena in 1994, or the basketball regional final win over Arizona to go to the Final Four in 2014, or beating undefeated Kentucky in the 2015 Final Four, or any one of the six hockey national championships. (I was in Detroit in 1990.) And if you were in the band, you contributed to someone else’s moments of happiness too. 

The new director

Regular readers know about my recent and longer-term association with the UW Marching Band, whose director, Mike Leckrone, retired after 50 years directing the band.

(About which, for a great perspective on what we learned, read this.)

Well, almost no one is irreplaceable. (ABC Radio tried to replace Paul Harvey and then gave up.) And so my alma mater reports:

 It has been a full five decades since the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Mead Witter School of Music has selected a new leader of the UW Marching Band.

But after an extensive national search, they’ve found the one: Corey Pompey, who has been serving as the director of athletic bands and associate director of bands for the University of Nevada, Reno, will take the baton from legendary UW bandleader Michael Leckrone beginning this summer, becoming the school’s new director of athletic bands and associate director of bands.

“Corey Pompey is the clear choice,” said Susan Cook, director of the School of Music. “He has a deep musicianship along with an enthusiasm and energy on the podium that was infectious; he really connected with the students.”

Pompey brings a strong background in music education and extensive experience with marching bands to his new role at UW. He studied music education as an undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Alabama and earned his doctor of musical arts degree from the University of Texas-Austin, two music programs similar to UW–Madison in terms of size and scope, both with deep marching band traditions. Prior to his time at University of Nevada, Reno, Pompey served as assistant director of bands at Penn State University.

“When I think of UW, I think of a great institution of learning,” said Pompey. “The second thing I think of is its wonderful tradition of marching bands. There’s a strong legacy at UW.”

Interestingly, Pompey didn’t initially set out to become a band leader. He began his career teaching music in public schools in Pleasant Grove and Brookwood, Alabama.

“I went into music education with the intent of doing something else with my life,” Pompey said. “Then the music grabbed me. The profession found me – I didn’t find it.”

In discussing the vision he’ll bring to his new role with the UW Marching Band, Pompey emphasized the importance of collaboration, music selection and the student experience.

“It’s important to be entertaining the crowd, always,” he said. “But I also want to provide the students in the band with a great experience. I want them to learn something.”

The UW students who participated in the interview process were also impressed with Pompey. CJ Zabat, a 22-year old senior who serves as the band’s drum major, said he and his fellow band members felt an instant connection.

“He was really deliberate, knowledgeable and detail-oriented,” Zabat said. “He was aware of everyone in the room with him, and it was clear there were a lot of musical gears turning in his head.

Pompey is also mindful of the deep tradition and national profile of the program he’s inheriting from Leckrone, who has led the band since 1969. Last fall, Leckrone announced his intent to step down as director at the end of this academic year.

“I want to acknowledge how honored I am to have the opportunity to lead this program,” Pompey said.  “I also want to thank Prof. Leckrone for all he’s done. I look forward to carrying on the excellence of the program.”

Pompey will officially start at UW on July 20.

The huge question, of course, is: What do Pompey’s bands look like?

This appears to be an example of “corps-style” marching, patterned after drum and bugle corps. We band alumni added an E to “corps” because there is no real marching involved here.

Band members who have been interviewed have been very positive about Pompey. That shows that it’s a new era. (When I was in high school I was never asked who I wanted to be the next band director.) Getting buy-in is important, because not getting buy-in can be disastrous, as anyone who observed from a distance former UW Band assistant director Justin Stolarik’s experience at Oklahoma University can attest.

Pompey’s music seems good, though those who marched for Leckrone would not approve of Nevada’s marching style, which is not anywhere near as distinctive as Wisconsin’s. (Leckrone inherited a band that was doing a pretty standard Big Ten style, but modified it with Stop at the Top, where there is a discernible pause between steps.) Leckrone’s bands didn’t just play older rock music, of course, but played big bands, show tunes and even classical music as well.

There is a parallel (at least in my strange mind) to politics here in a nonpartisan and non-ideological sense. A lot of political candidates talk about change in glowing terms. Well, change may be inevitable, but progress is not, and “change” and “progress” are not synonyms. People want things to be better, not merely different. And no one will complain if Pompey improves the band. But there are things — the marching style being a major one — that changing may not result in approval.

On the other hand, Pompey starts in July. Assuming similar schedules from the past, he will start with students a month later. The Nevada band might have been the band he inherited too late to do anything with marching style other than what they were already doing. It would seem difficult to adopt a brand new style of marching to upwards of 200 returning band members in just two or three weeks. (Their first home game is against Central Michigan Sept. 7.)



A week after eating a rock

An outstanding newspaper wrote a story and a column about last weekend’s UW Band concerts.

alumni band practice
Photo by Gary Smith. Good thing this is only practice, but Leckrone always said you play like you practice. Toes not pointed, upper leg not at a 45-degree angle. What is the statute of limitations for being on the Dummy List?
old trumpet player
For those who assume I’m making all this up, my cousin shot this photo as evidence that I indeed marched one more time with the UW Band.
The 50 alumni — 50 for 50 years, get it? — who played in the concert. Photo by Gary Smith.



alumni trumpets
The oldest trumpet players in the concerts.

If you look toward the lower right of the screen you will see more evidence that I did actually play:

Another band alum posted about the first time he met Mike Leckrone. Since my parents are football season-ticket-holders of long standing, and I generally got to go to one game a year, I saw the band starting in the early 1970s, and went to two concerts in the late 1970s. (A Madison TV station had a preview of the concert that night including video of practice with Leckrone not too happy with the band. That’s what we call foreshadowing.) The first time I saw him close enough to be recognizable was at a high school marching band practice, in which Leckrone exhorted us to march with a sense of confidence and pride and we’re-the-best-there-is. I didn’t get that until three years later when I made the band.

(About which: I survived 1983 Registration Week practices, thinking I was going to die 15 minutes into the first practice. The following Monday the list of those who made it and those who didn’t was posted. I went over, looked at the you’re-in list, and then found the trumpets, and there I was. I stared at it for a few minutes not believing my eyes. Then I called my parents and, after a pause for dramatic tension, told them that now they had a reason to go to the games.)

The funniest thing about Wednesday’s practice — other than Leckrone’s telling his band they weren’t going to practice more than twice so we wouldn’t get tired out — was that he indicated his displeasure with his band using the exact words he could have used on us 35 years ago, beginning with the band director chestnut, “Why are you talking?” after they stopped playing. (That might be a reality of even military bands.) That was followed by a criticism for lack of spacing while playing and a general observation that “you play like you practice.”

The UW Band Alumni Association Facebook page has a huge list of people’s favorite shows or music (in my case, the James Bond Medley from freshman year, Too Old for MTV sophomore year, West Side Story and the international On Wisconsin show from junior year, and Jesus Christ Superstar from first senior year), and people writing about the impact Leckrone and the band had on their lives.

All of the lasts of Leckrone’s final season …

The four days with the band were better than I thought possible. There were two marchers from Leckrone’s first band, in 1969. The most numerous marchers seemed to be from the group that started in 1979, which got not just bowl games …

… but NCAA hockey championships to go to and play.

There were a lot of tears Saturday night. I wasn’t one of them because I’m not built like that. (Recall the Dr. Seuss phrase, “Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.”) Perhaps it’s because, like my last year in the band, all my lasts didn’t hit me as lasts until the following August when I wasn’t about to start Reg Week rehearsals.

(I am virtually certain I am somewhere in that video.?)

The Peace Corps calls itself “the toughest job you’ll ever love.” The term “love” is grossly overused today, but I loved being in the band. What did the band mean to me? Take your pick.