Thousands of University of Michigan fans traveled to Camp Randall Stadium Sept. 24 only to watch their beloved Wolverines succumb to the Badgers in a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback.
For some of those fans, however, it was not the final score but harassment at the hands of University of Wisconsin students that ruined their weekend.
"Michigan on the 24th was I think head and shoulders probably the worst [game] in recent years in terms of feedback from visitors," University of Wisconsin spokesperson John Lucas said.
Selected feedback, in the form of five previously private e-mails to UW administrators, was made public at a press conference Wednesday as the university seemingly attempted to come clean about alcohol abuse within its student body.
"I have attended games at nearly every Big Ten stadium and can categorically state that Madison is the worst," Michigan fan Mark Jacob Thomas, who reported having hot cocoa and bratwursts thrown at him at past Badger games, said in an e-mail to UW Chancellor John Wiley. "Iowa fans are nuts and Ohio State fans are hostile, but at Wisconsin, the students are drunk beyond comprehension and incredibly abusive verbally and physically."
Elizabeth Jahn, a UM employee and Wolverines season-ticket holder, also wrote an e-mail to UW complaining about the experience she and her sister had in Madison.
"[W]e were surprised and disappointed at the amount of personal insults, profanity and negative sentiments that were hurled at us by the many students that we came across," Jahn wrote. "I can't count the number of times that students got into our face and called us a–holes, or yelled out, 'Ann Arbor is a whore, you bitches' (an insult that I frankly don't even understand), or told us to go back to Michigan."
Jahn noted in her e-mail neither she nor her sister did anything other than wear Michigan colors to provoke this behavior, and characterized it as something she would expect in East Lansing, Mich., or Columbus, Ohio — but not Madison.
"We've really taken pains to try to address … [this] kind of aggressive, borderline violent conduct," Lucas said. "We [are] getting a reputation as having some really nasty people and drunk people in the crowd."
Not everyone thinks this is such a bad thing however, including Ald. Austin King, District 8, who will not likely be sending apologetic e-mails to Thomas or Jahn anytime soon.
"I definitely have been less than welcoming to Michigan fans," King said. "That's part of our home-field advantage."
King said he is always cordial and respectful when he sees fans of opposing Big Ten teams on State Street or elsewhere in Madison, but on game day at Camp Randall, he indicated he plays by a different set of rules.
"Obviously there's a point at which the line gets crossed, [such as] actually breaking the law or physical violence. That's inappropriate," he said. "[But] calling someone an a–hole and pointing at them — that's part of home-field advantage."
King's comments fly in the face of efforts by both the Big Ten and UW — which began its "Rolling out the Red Carpet" campaign last year — which encourage greater sportsmanship and respectful conduct before, during and after all sporting events.
"They're looking at trying to encourage schools to take steps. We have taken steps in the past two years with 'Red Carpet' and trying to get out there and do all the things that we know how to do in encouraging fans … to take it easy," Lucas said.
King, however, expressed no interest in joining UW in rolling out any red carpets for opposing football teams or their fans.
"In Camp Randall, I don't exactly expect anyone to roll out the red carpet for our enemy," King said.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany sent an e-mail to the conference's athletic directors last week suggesting they discuss crowd control — and measures such as banning profane T-shirts from their stadiums — during their conference call held Wednesday morning.
"I continue to see evidence of visiting fans being verbally abused while at or near football venues," Delany wrote. "To some extent, it feels like a spike in this behavior. Certainly letters describing these incidents/experiences are on the rise."