Tradition is at the heart and soul of college football and it is embodied across the country in the student sections of different schools. Watching raucous crowds at Notre Dame and LSU try to will their teams to victory last weekend (to varying degrees of success) is what Saturday football is all about. But sadly, here in Madison, this has taken a turn for the worse.
The student section at Camp Randall just isn’t what it used to be. I’ve been attending this university for over four years and in my time here I have seen some of the highlights of what the student section used to be.
The pinnacle moment came on Oct. 16, 2010, when the Badgers hosted No. 1 Ohio State. That night, the student section was truly Wisconsin’s 12th man. Every single fan came together to make Camp Randall the most intimidating environment in America, and the end result was a 31-18 Badger victory that remains the greatest spectacle I have ever seen firsthand in sports.
But I’ve also seen some of the lowlights—many of which have come about recently.
This season particularly, it seems that football has taken a backseat at Badger games. Fans act as if the game is only background noise, tuning in only occasionally when a touchdown is scored or a third down is stuffed. Badger games used to be about football, not about staying until “Jump Around” and then leaving early in the fourth quarter. The environment—the feel—that used to make games at Camp Randall so enjoyable has not been there this season.
This was especially on display when Wisconsin hosted Michigan State last month. When Badger quarterback Joel Stave went down with an injury early in the third quarter, boos began to rain down on his replacement Danny O’Brien. Is that what a good student section does?
Yes, he has had his struggles this season, but no matter what you think about O’Brien, he was entering the game cold and trying and to win for his home crowd—does anyone really think that booing him is going to make that easier? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to try and help your quarterback get settled in by cheering him on?
I was watching that game from high up in section K until the end of the third quarter. Seconds after “Jump Around” ended, fans headed to the gates in droves. I was able to move down some 20 rows towards the field because of how many people left—in a one-score game with our most bitter rivals of late.
Not surprisingly, when Michigan State did march down the field, right into the heart of the student section, there was little help offered in the way of distracting the Spartans. The energy was gone. The noise was gone. The crowd was gone.
What happened, Madison? That is the exact type of game where the student section should be going bonkers. In overtime, Spartans quarterback Andrew Maxwell shouldn’t have been able to hear himself think, but instead he was able to call plays and make audibles with ease.
Excuses can be made—it was cold out, the team has underachieved this season, conference games don’t matter as much this season because of Ohio State and Penn State’s ineligibility. None of that matters. I don’t care if the Badgers are 10-0 or 0-10, the student section at Camp Randall should always be loud.
This past weekend Fox Sports analysts (and former college football greats) Eddie George and Joey Harrington said that Camp Randall was the loudest place they ever played in. Ten or 15 years ago, that may have been the case, but not anymore.
We have one last chance to turn the student section around this season when the Badgers host Ohio State Nov. 17—let’s make the most of it. Let’s bring the tradition back to Wisconsin.
Do you feel the student section has underwhelmed this year, or do you think it is as strong as ever? Let Matt know at firstname.lastname@example.org