Ben Herbert, UW football

University of Wisconsin strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert and the Badgers enjoy air conditioning in their new weight room, but must deal with sweltering conditions in workouts at Camp Randall Stadium, where the temperature on the FieldTurf is typically 20 degrees warmer than the air.

John Hart — Wisconsin State Journal

The suffocating wave of heat hits the University of Wisconsin football players as they walk down the tunnel, before even reaching the field inside Camp Randall Stadium.

During summer workouts, the players will often leave the new weight room located in the north end of the stadium — which has air conditioning — for the short walk down the tunnel into the stadium.

"There's some AC in the (weight) room. You walk out and you get to the top of that tunnel," strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert said, making a loud slap of his hands. "It hits you."

UW's eight-week summer conditioning program, which is run by Herbert, has gone on unabated by the record heat wave this summer.

"I can remember some hot days," said Herbert, a former UW defensive lineman, when asked for anything he could compare it to. "But I can't remember a string where every day it's going to hit you."

With the sun radiating off the windows of the luxury boxes, as well as the aluminum bleachers, the temperature on the field inside the stadium can be 20 degrees hotter than the actual temperature. With temperatures in the 100s this summer, that puts the field temperature in the 120-degree range.

Herbert said the heat inside the stadium creates a "shimmering" visual effect, like being in a desert.

"The only thing I know, it's clear as day, we would look down the field and you could just see the heat wave," Herbert said. "It wasn't like you had to squint and look, you could see the shimmering."

Yet, Herbert said prior to another wave of triple-digit temperatures this week, the heat wave had not greatly interrupted the summer program.

"Fortunately, they embraced it," Herbert said of the players. "We had time, fortunately, to build up from a preparation standpint.

"You can never fully prepare for that type of heat. Programming-wise, I didn't have to change anything. Our guys tolerated it."

Herbert closely monitors the players' condition and is quick to extend water breaks when needed. He is fully aware of how dangerous the heat can be and takes necessary precautions.

"If I need to modify some rest periods and give them more time to hydrate, I'm not one of those guys (that thinks), 'You're weak-minded if you need water,' " Herbert said. "We're going to take care of them, make sure they're hydrated.

"If we need to adjust our rest periods, obviously, it's 100-plus degrees. We're going to be smart about this thing."

Yet, one thing Herbert said he hasn't had to do is back off on is the conditioning aspect of the summer work.

"They hit something like that (heat), an external factor, it's a challenge to them, really," Herbert said. "How well can you function? When camp comes, or UNI (Northern Iowa in the season opener), any of those early games, it's 102 (currently), for me that's something you can always have in the back of your mind.

"You can expose yourself to something and revert back to that in the future, whether it's relevant at the time or not. It's 104, the temperature on the field might have been 120, (but) 'I was still able to get my workout in, I still functioned at a high level.' "

It has been particularly eye-opening for the incoming freshmen, who face a big adjustment anyway with the intensity of the summer workout program.

"I didn't know what to expect starting out," said Logan Schmidt, a walk-on defensive lineman from Richland Center. "When I got there, it's a whole new world, going from being the big man on campus, now just trying to earn a spot and trying to fit in."

Throw in the oppressive heat and that's one more adjustment for the freshmen.

"This freshman class, they came along for the ride." Herbert said, approvingly. "Those guys, you've got to make sure, everything they do, you keep a real close eye on them. ... They have done really well. I really like this group."

Workouts tend to be early, before the hottest part of the day, although Schmidt said he could recall one day of around 110 degrees on the field.

"It was hot, but we got through it," he said. "They make sure we had fluids in us, so it was good."

Freshman safety Leo Musso, from Waunakee, said his worst heat experience came off the field.

"All of the guys are eager to get after it and get to work, so it's something we don't mind too much," he said. "I guess the biggest heat thing was my AC broke in my apartment. That's the biggest, 'Welcome to college,' I got."

Schmidt said, the worse things are now, "the easier it gets" during the season.

That's why Herbert is probably one of the few area residents who hasn't minded the unrelenting heat.

"Ultimately, for me, it's always mentally and physically, putting them in situations," Herbert said. "It all comes back to that fourth-quarter mentality, or overtime. If a defense is on the field for a 10- or 12-play drive, you felt this (tired) before.

"And when you felt like that, 'I was able to get through it.' It's one thing if you crash and can't get through it, but you did and you did well. You can get through it (during the season), too."

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