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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Bucky’s bleacher buddies

On Badger game days, standards of appropriate behavior in Madison change as fans yell "a*shole" to out-of-state strangers, chant "f*ck you, eat sh*t" to their fellow students and paint their bodies red and white.

Although the student section is contained in one end zone of Camp Randall, the cheers resonate across the 80,000-seat stadium and can be offensive to some administrators, fans and visitors. With the first conference game of the season coming this Saturday evening against the University of Michigan, the University of Wisconsin Police Department and UW administrators are ready to deal with a rowdy student section and intoxicated Badger and Wolverine fans.

"Nervous isn't the right word — [there will be] a heightened awareness," Associate Athletic Director Steve Malchow said. "This will be a good challenge for us."


While members of the UW student section are known for voicing their opinions, Michigan held its own during a Sept. 10 game against Notre Dame.

The Wolverine student section threw plastic bottles onto the field after a referee reversed two calls based on instant replays, according to Tom Brooks, assistant athletic director for marketing at UM.

"Empty water and soda bottlers were kind of showered down into the end zones," Brooks said. "We hope it's an isolated incident."

Most of the intense reactions from the Wolverine student sections are a result of bad calls, Brooks said, and often bring about the "B.S. chant."

"By and large, I think our students are very well behaved and are good fans of the game," he added.

Until three years ago, the Wolverine student section threw marshmallows into the end zone — "a long-time Michigan student tradition."

"That was a big tradition, but some marshmallows were laced with quarters," Brooks said. "We had to bring it to an end."

In Wisconsin, there are state ordinances that have been around for approximately 15 years and render common student-section activities — such as throwing objects or body surfing — enforceable offenses, UWPD Lt. William Larson said. Both offenses can be followed by a $185.50 citation.

"Most states don't have ordinances like that," Larson said. "We can keep people from throwing things. That makes a big difference."

Larson, who has worked for 22 years in the special-events department of the UWPD, said prior to when body-passing and the throwing of items were banned, injuries were "sky high." People would be dropped during body-passing, and a number of sexual-assault complaints would be filed, as well.

Event Manager Tod Nelson said the laws are in effect to protect the people who do not want to participate in those activities, whether it is bouncing a beach ball around the student section or throwing water bottles onto the field, both of which have happened in the past.

"We'd rather have everyone singing along and enjoying the game and watch it that way and not worry," Nelson said.

At the University of Minnesota, Betsey Sherman, director of marketing communications, said when the department does student giveaways during football games, there is a weight limit.

After an incident about five years ago, when plastic megaphones ended up being thrown onto the field and onto peoples heads after certain calls, the department decided to use inflatable items, pom-poms and rally towels for promotions, she said.

"A lot of thought goes into what we are actually giving our students because it obviously is a problem," Sherman said. "We serve beer and alcohol during games because our stadium is off campus [at the Metrodome] and we try to foresee problems [like these]."

Alcohol is available at Camp Randall, but only in the premium seating areas, Nelson said. The stadium requests a liquor license for a certain date, time and specifies when and where it is going to be sold.

"We're real careful that the alcohol available in club seats stays there," he said.

Larson said the number one problem during UW football games at is the over-consumption of alcohol. But because the department does not have enough resources to fine the large number of under-age drinkers, an average of only 25 to 30 people are cited during games, mainly for safety hazards, out of a stadium filled with more than 80,000 football fans.

"The people that are behaving themselves are not a problem. We won't even know that they have been drinking. If they're throwing stuff, that's something we would contact them for," he said.

Alcohol consumption is usually higher during night games and students tend to be more intoxicated, Larson said.

Despite problems that have arisen in the past, the UWPD is excited for Saturday's game.

"We've done this for many years and we've got a lot of good people that work," Larson said. "I'm sure it will be busy."

University reaction

After receiving a number of complaint letters after the 2003 football season, mainly from the Ohio State University football game, the university initiated the "Rolling Out the Red Carpet" campaign for visiting fans for the 2004 season.

"Some Ohio fans did not have a good experience," Malchow said, adding some fans had objects thrown at them, some were yelled at by Badger fans and others left the stadium early to escape the negativity. "There was enough of them to have concern."

According to an OSU fan that sent a complaint letter to UW, a 7-year-old boy had a beer bottle thrown at him by a Badger fan.

"You see that in your mind and that's not acceptable," Malchow said. "We don't want that reputation of being that hostile."

Since then, the number of complaint letters the university receives has decreased significantly, Malchow said. Thirty to 40 UW students continue to act as "welcome agents" to out-of-state fans and pass out stickers on Breese Terrace before the football games.

"Competition is good on the field but shouldn't extend beyond the confines of the stadium," Malchow said.

Janet Holt, a Miami of Ohio graduate and mother of a UW senior, said she does not find the student section offensive or harmful during Badger games.

"I just focus more on the fact that the positive energy and the excitement of the fans … could draw such a crowd," Holt said. "Overall, the energy and excitement is so positive — it's a positive culture and its part of what makes Madison so neat."

When Holt and her husband take other couples to a Badger game with their four season tickets, visiting couples "get a kick" out of the student section.

"It's kind of tongue-in-cheek, and it's not really meant seriously," Holt said of the student section's cheers against other teams.

Nelson said between 80,000 people, there are bound to be complaints, ranging from the conduct of fans to critiques of the stadium itself. It's hard to respond to a complaint about an event that occurred over the weekend, he added.

"Anything and everything," Nelson said. "We try to handle things right then and there [at the game]. We make sure everyone is having an enjoyable experience."

The past and the future

This Saturday's game was scheduled for either 6 or 6:45 p.m., but when ESPN asked the UW Athletic Department for a 5 p.m. kick-off, it welcomed the idea, especially when playing a "national power" like the Wolverines.

"We wholeheartedly embraced that concept. The later in the day you get, the more issues you have," Malchow said.

Even with the efforts to settle down the student section, Larson called today's Badger student section "much more tame" than those in the past 22 years he has worked with the UWPD.

In the past, students used to tear bleachers off the stands, pass them up the student section and toss them over the walls of the stadium, Larson added.

"A lot of it has to do with what's going on out on the field," Larson said, explaining a number of years ago, UW didn't have as exceptional a football team and fans wouldn't enjoy watching the game. "It's much more entertaining [today] to watch the game. Everyone is involved."

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