Earlier this year, ESPN’s Scott Van Pelt called Madison the "greatest college sports town in America."
The declaration inspired a 69-member Facebook group after Van Pelt spent time over the summer in Madison, using some of his time to visit State Street Brats and Wando’s bars.
Van Pelt also praised University of Wisconsin fans, calling the 85,000 fans that fill Camp Randall Stadium "lunatics."
And after being drenched in beer and being told to "get the fuck out of here," some visiting fans think the same — but for a much different reason.
The University of Wisconsin recently released some of the letters it has received so far this fall from fans from other campuses who came to Madison to cheer on Badger football opposition.
With UW volunteer fan ambassadors hitting the streets before games, the university is making efforts to try and curb inflammatory actions and language toward the visiting fans.
"With the fan ambassadors, we are trying to set a more positive atmosphere," said UW Event Administration Coordinator John Finkler. "Whether it’s the Iowa game or The Citadel, you try to be consistent and take steps to make sure everyone there is having a good time."
For his part, UW Chancellor John Wiley spends some time walking up and down Breese Terrace near the stadium before all home games he attends.
"If I see a porch crowded with students and a bong, and they’re yelling various insults at the fans from the other team, I go up and challenge them," Wiley told The Badger Herald. "And they always act embarrassed and stop it."
With the fan ambassador program, UW hopes better conduct outside the stadium will also translate to less profanity inside it.
Wiley said the "Fuck you, eat shit" chant is especially embarrassing now with the addition of the Big Ten Network, as every UW football game is now guaranteed to reach a mass audience.
But smaller issues exist as well. The chancellor said he came across a father and his young son a couple years ago when students started the infamous chant.
The curious child asked, "What are they saying?"
The father, quick on his toes, replied, "Keep fit, thank you."
What are they saying?
From the chancellor’s box on any given Saturday at Camp Randall, Wiley has the duty of convincing potential donors to provide scholarship money for the university.
Then, the donors hear four not-so-flattering words: "Fuck you, eat shit."
"They hear "Eat shit, fuck you" over and over and over, and they look down there and they say, ‘Those are the students you want me to give money for? I mean, where are their brains?’" Wiley told The Badger Herald.
Wiley said his job of trying to impress donors becomes considerably harder after the chant.
"It’s humiliating," he said. "It’s embarrassing the school, it’s embarrassing to the students who do it."
In 2002, then-UW football coach and current Athletic Director Barry Alvarez asked fans to stop the chant.
But it did not help.
"Now, I’m not naive enough to think that me saying that is going to do anything except make it worse," Wiley said. "Barry tried it a few years ago when he was football coach. It was worse the next game. I suggested, … Why don’t you at least be creative and do it in Latin?"
While thousands of students participate in the chant and like the "tradition," not many of them like to admit doing it themselves.
"I think it’s hilarious," UW senior Kelly Raymond said. "I just don’t do it."
UW junior Robb Nelson said he likes the uniqueness of he chant but said he does not always participate.
"I never really get there early enough to get close to O or P," Nelson said. "I sometimes do it."
Wiley refutes claims that the chant has been some long-standing tradition at UW home football games.
"This only started a few years ago," Wiley said. "It’s not a long tradition. It’s a new thing."
And the consequences, if the chant continues, could extend to the university’s checkbook or Camp Randall’s scoreboard.
"I think it’s eventually going to get us sanctioned by the Big Ten conference for unsportsmanlike conduct, which means we’ll either be paying fines instead of putting money into student scholarships or we’ll be losing things that matter in the competition — not scholarships, but points in the game," Wiley said. "So we have to get a handle on this, but I don’t have a clue how to do it."
According to UW Communications, though, a solution will never include punishing students for using inappropriate language used at football games.
Letters to Wiley
In a letter to Chancellor John Wiley, Michael Webber said some of his friends visited Madison for the UW-University of Iowa evening football game Sept. 22.
"The way they were treated was appalling," Webber, an Iowa fan, wrote. "Several roving groups of drunk students (told) anyone dressed in Iowa gear to get the F-out of Wisconsin. Several Iowa fans were pushed, shoved, women had beer poured all over them, and called the B-word and the C-word, while crowds of students just laughed."
Chris and Jennifer Reinsel were also unimpressed with student behavior at the Wisconsin-Iowa game — and the Reinsels are both UW alums.
The couple took their 2-year-old to the game and said they were "ashamed" of their alma mater for being forced to have their son listen to the "Fuck you, eat shit" chant.
The Reinsels suggested UW warn students that networks like ABC, CBS and ESPN will not come to games if the behavior continues, have the band start to play to drown out the chant or play more music to distract students from beginning the chant.
Finkler said most complaints this year came after the Iowa game, as the night game sparked an increase in rowdiness around the stadium.
However, Marty Monastersky wrote to UW System President Kevin Reilly expressing his disappointment with fan behavior during the Badgers’ game against Michigan State Sept. 29.
"After the game on our way back to our cars, we were confronted by large numbers of students on Lathrop Street chanting obscenities and directing us to ‘get the F out of town,'" Monastersky wrote in his letter. "On more than one occasion, we literally had students screaming in our faces, cursing at my wife, at my friends and me."
Monastersky said he is "unlikely" to return to Madison for a football game.
There are 80,000 people there, not 10
Despite the complaints Wiley’s office received, Finkler said many people enjoy their trip to Madison.
One Washington State University fan in Madison for the Badger-Cougar matchup Sept. 1 posted on a WSU board that he had a great time in Madison.
"People were great to me," the fan wrote. "I was all over and virtually nobody said anything derogatory, other than a few shots, which is fine. I thought (the) student section and band were awesome."
Finkler said other than the Iowa game, "we’ve had a very good season" and the problem of fan conduct is "portrayed worse than it actually is."
On Thursday, Finkler said he received a letter from an elderly woman who attended the Wisconsin-Iowa game thanking him for help finding a handicap seat.
The woman went on to say UW has a "very nice facility" and, in good spirits, wrote "Go Hawks!" at the bottom of the page.
Finkler said people like this woman do not write letters to the editor or letters to university officials.
"People think we’re going to solve this immediately," he said. "If we have 80,000 fans, and there are 10 complaints, those would be more emphasized."
The same day of the Iowa game, Finkler asked an Iowa fan about his experience in Madison. While the fan did admit to being the victim of some heckling, he whimsically said he just "goes with the flow."
Finkler said many people assume Wisconsin fans are the only culprits of poor behavior.
"Students get a bad rap. People think this is all a student problem," he said. "I think the fact is that we have a number of students who make a commitment to welcome people — that it puts a different face on the atmosphere. We go toward our ticket takers and ushers and have everyone put a good face on and welcome people to Camp Randall."
To combat rowdy behavior, Finkler said stadium officials remain consistent in enforcing the rules.
"If someone is in the stadium and intoxicated, they’re removed," he said. "We try to watch people who are intoxicated when we get a complaint and not assume it’s our fans and their fans."
While no "quick fix" exists, Finkler said the university is headed in the right direction toward combating the problem.
The culture of football games is not at 100 percent but is "getting better," Finkler added.
"Hopefully we’ll gradually change the culture so that it’s not cool or acceptable to be abusive or not be respectful toward other fans," he said.
It’s not just Madison
While UW cited Penn State University as a place where fans are passionate but civil, an incident the day of the Penn State-Ohio State football game Oct. 27 sparked a series of angry letters to the university.
A video posted on YouTube shows Ohio State fans walking near a fraternity with Penn State fans, throwing open cans at them while yelling "Fuck Ohio" and other obscenities.
Earlier this week, State College Police Department handed out disorderly conduct citations — including to Penn State’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity — following the video, according to a Penn State release.
Further university action against the fraternity, according to the release, is still pending.
According to Finkler, Ohio State University also struggles with many of the same fan behavior problems as UW.
Last week, Finkler went to OSU for the Badgers-Buckeyes game to witness their fan behavior firsthand.
He said OSU has a program similar to Rolling Out the Red Carpet — the Ohio State Sportsmanship Council.
"I was flattered because they started the program as a result of ours," Finkler said.
Despite the high-profile status and No. 1 ranking OSU holds right now, Finkler said Columbus must endure many of the same problems UW does.
"It’s funny when you go to places like Ohio State — considered one of the best football places in the country — they face a lot of the same challenges," he said. "When you go on the road, you discover it’s not unique."
One more chance
Finkler said because Michigan is a big rival for UW — and the Wolverines are currently ranked No. 13 in the nation — increased enthusiasm and excitement will exist come Saturday’s 11 a.m. matchup.
"Obviously, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota — those are the high-charged games," he said. "That’s where we tell everyone, 'We really need to do our best today. You see someone in the blue and maize — welcome them to Camp Randall.'"
Additionally, Finkler hopes fans will focus on honoring their own Saturday, not ridiculing other fans.
"I think it’s going to be a big game, but it’s Senior Day, our last home game, Ron Dayne will be honored — a lot of positive things," he said. "I hope that’s the feeling people will bring. This is really what Big Ten football is all about."
With this week’s game on his network, Van Pelt said last summer Madison is "as good as it gets."
But Wiley thinks students can make it even better.
"Wisconsin has a long history of producing leaders, … not followers," he said. "So what is it that goes wrong in a crowd that makes people want to follow the crudest leader around? I don’t understand it."
Finkler believes Saturday is the fans’ opportunity to prove critics wrong.
"We pride ourselves in trying to be classy," he said. "What better opportunity than this game?"