You’d be hard pressed to find a better place to be on a fall Saturday than in Madison, Wisconsin. When the Badgers are in town, the city comes alive, bathed in red and white bibs. A Wisconsin football game day truly has it all.
Big Ten Tradition Like No Other!
Everything But The W
If you’re going to hit a Wisconsin football game day, September is the best month. Surrounding one of the most iconic Capitol buildings in the US is a farmers market that runs every Saturday, including game days. There’s also ample (and affordable!) parking around here.
We took our time taking in the scenery of gorgeous downtown Madison.
Thanks to an incredible tour guide– College Football Tour– we were given the focused tour of Madison. After a walk down famous State Street, we enjoyed some local brews overlooking Lake Mendota at the old Memorial Union. When in ‘Sconsin, Spotted Cow is a must.
A little overcast skies and a crisp breeze made this the first true fall day of the year and it added real depth to an already-beautiful city. There’s a reason Madison is a repeat winner of the Best College Town in America award.
Around two hours before kickoff, there’s only one place you want to be: at Union South for Badger Bash. Wisconsin has one of the best marching bands in the land and they put on a show with thousands of spectators gathered. It’s no joke, either– folks arrive early to secure their spot in the courtyard.
After their grand entrance and a couple songs, we decided to beat the crowds to Camp Randall Stadium.
The fanfare… the tradition… Madison had everything but the W that day.
The Heartbeat Of The Midwest
One thing to note about Wisconsinites is that they’re among the friendliest people in the world. Visiting fans from Washington State were greeted with hearty “Welcome to Madison, thanks for coming!” and smiles. The folks there are patient and (spoiler alert) level-headed even after a loss.
The entire feel of Madison is warm and cozy, even when the summers blaze.
After a few “Ope, pardon me’s” on the way out of the Badger Bash crowd, we headed under the historic CAMP RANDALL arch.
A Stadium Full Of History
Camp Randall Stadium will never be renamed.
It sits on historic Camp Randall, an old Civil War training crowd for the Union Army. Some old relics– namely a cannon, some jail cells, and the iconic arch– still remain as almost a living museum around the stadium.
Knowing the amount of history that surrounds the University of Wisconsin adds another level of appreciation and tradition to Saturday.
Washington State 17, #19 Wisconsin 14
Up until game time, everything was perfect. Maybe it was too perfect.
Hand waiving a lot of two-yard runs on first down, disastrous fumbles, and over 100 yards in penalties, Wisconsin fell to the visiting and unranked Washington State Cougars, 17-14. The Badgers were favored by 17 points in this game, making it a massive upset.
Perhaps the biggest upset I’ve seen in person.
OK– now the good stuff.
A few years ago, Wisconsin revived the Bucky Wagon, an old fire truck that one of the nation’s most beloved mascots rides into battle on. Shortly after, the team follows out to On Wisconsin.
This game was a rare stripe out for Wisconsin– maybe the third or fourth instance ever. The National Anthem was topped by a flyover of a pair of F-16s and finally we were ready for football.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t much for the 74,000+ to cheer about in this game. Camp Randall is known for being one of the louder stadiums in the nation but, unfortunately, frustratingly-outdated coaching tactics and a myriad of penalties and turnovers silenced the crowd from the get go.
Crowd retention after halftime (and during it!) is among the most impressive I’ve seen anywhere. Butts stayed in seats for one of the most famous traditions in the country.
Finally, the third quarter closes and it’s time for Jump Around. No amount of words here really capture what that stadium’s like during those two minutes. You’ll just have to find out for yourself.
Stick around after the game for the Fifth Quarter, which usually is a band concert and dance party. Unfortunately, 14 points and a loss dropped a somber blanket on Camp Randall, so we decided to follow the crowds to the bars.
Get there early– the crowds pile up fast. But always worth getting in another Wisconsin brew or five.
Wisconsin Game Day Grades
Stadium: A. Sitting on an old Civil War training ground, the iconic Field House, the name, it all combines into being one of the best sporting venues in the country. Camp Randall is on everyone’s bucket list.
Tradition: A+. There’s a rare few schools as deserving of this grade as Wisconsin. For more information, see the above 750 or so words.
Atmosphere: B-. I have no doubt in my mind that this place is an A when a team like Michigan, Ohio State, or Nebraska is in town. There’s times where you hear the roar. But this afternoon, it was somber from the starting gun. Washington State successfully took the crowd out of the game.
Tailgating: B. It’s certainly somewhere and the neighborhood streets around Camp Randall were packed full of students. Some opted to take their tailgates onto Lake Mendota.
Fans: A+. Unbelievably friendly. Passionate. Keep their composure. There’s exactly zero flaws about Wisconsin’s fans.
Extracurriculars: A. Madison is a terrific city. It’s named the Best College Town in America many, many times for a reason.
Check out where I’ll be for the rest of the season with my 2022 schedule.