Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Hughes: UW’s quarrel lies not with UM, but with OSU

For all of you passionate Badger fans of the men’s basketball and football teams, when was the last time you seriously said to yourself, “(expletive) I (expletive) hate those (expletive(s)) Gophers” out of sheer anger and long-term frustration?

I know you haven’t said it in reference to the football team in quite a while. After failing to take Paul Bunyan’s Axe from Camp Randall for seven years now, I’m starting to think the Gophers’ football team is actually starting to grow on me a little.

Basketball, sure, there’s something to gripe about. Before this season’s 68-60 victory over the neighborly team, Wisconsin had lost three consecutive games to Minnesota. One of those games went into overtime, another was decided by five points and the other by 16.


Some of those were a bit hard to swallow, like last year’s late season meeting that ultimately prevented the Badgers from cutting a fourth slice in the Big Ten championship pie.

But those games were devoid of a wound’s salting in its aftermath. There was no comment or action following the game that incited any resentment.

Don’t worry; I didn’t forget about Bret Bielema’s cheeky two-point conversion against Minnesota this last year that led to naughty words being uttered by then-head coach Tim Brewster on the football field. But let’s look at the current state of things between Wisconsin and its most distinguished rival:

Football: A few patches of indignation still growing but its lacking competition and high stakes on grand stages. Minnesota hasn’t been ranked since midseason of 2005 and hasn’t finished better than fifth-place in the conference standings in any of the last nine years at least.

Basketball: A pretty good amount of competition. Head coach Tubby Smith has built up quite a bit of hype for his program since taking over in 2007 but has met it with disappointing results (the Gophers are no longer ranked and currently sit with a 6-7 conference record). Other than the fact that one team wins and the other loses when they meet, is there any juicy bad blood rivalry that grinds the gears of fans and players? Not really.

Compare that to the flowerbeds of resentment and competition between Wisconsin and Ohio State right now. The possibilities of a blockbuster rivalry between the two schools are brewing.

In regards to football and basketball, let’s just list right away some great elements developing: one team constantly becoming a nuisance for the other, games played on center stage for the nation to watch, some of the nation’s top talent clashing and post-game disrespect. The Beastie Boys might just call this series “tantalizing, captivating and devastating.”

Let me qualify all of that.

Despite Ohio State’s envious success on the gridiron with the “The Vest,” Jim Tressel (a national title in 2002, shares in seven of the last eight conference titles, eight BCS appearances) and on the court with Thad Matta (shares in three conference championships and two tournament titles) there’s always pesky Wisconsin getting in the way.

Thad Matta is 0-6 against the Badgers at the Kohl Center. Tressel is 4-4 when his scarlet red meets cardinal red. So there’s a history pestering. And now after Wisconsin ruined two undefeated season campaigns and removed the No. 1 tag from both teams in the same year, it seems scripted that the term “badger” is not just a noun, but a verb as well.

I don’t think I have to remind any Badger fans of the kind of grand stages that played host to Wisconsin vs. Ohio State bouts. Dick Vitale came to town this past weekend, College Gameday visited for the football game this fall and came for a basketball game two years ago between the two teams. Lest you forget, both teams were ranked in the top five nationally for all three times they met in the 2006-07 season.

This year especially, both schools feature cream of the crop talent. In basketball: Jordan Taylor, Jon Leuer and Jared Sullinger are nationally renown and are eyeing individual hardware (except perhaps the previously underappreciated Taylor). Six members of the AP first, second and third All-American teams played in the match at Camp Randall this fall.

Rivalries often only exist between the fans. Take the Bears-Packers relationship. I haven’t heard a player from either team bad-mouth the other in recent memory (if ever, in my existence). Unless the players are just keeping their feelings of hatred to themselves, that “feud” between the two teams largely exists with the fans, and that’s OK. It’s still a great matchup to watch every time, and it’s still worth calling it a rivalry.

But what we saw from the Jets and the Patriots this year – now that’s something everybody can enjoy. Those teams were taking so many verbal assaults at each other in the days leading up to their playoff meeting that the NFL released a statement reminding everyone that it wouldn’t be tolerated on the field. They abhor each other.

After the dust-settled in that game, the Jets ran around the Patriots’ turf extending their arms like wings, pretending to be actual jets. That’s salt in the wound and the eye.

And it seems like something similar – but not as intense – may be developing between Wisconsin and Ohio State. Days after losing 31-18 to Wisconsin this year, Pryor told reporters that “Everybody knows that if we play nine out of 10 times, we’d beat Wisconsin.”

And then after the basketball team loses, OSU wide receiver DeVier Posey proclaimed his hate for Wisconsin (kind of like Tom Brady expressing his true feelings for the Jets) on Twitter. He also said he can’t wait for a rematch.

Then Sullinger claims he was spit on before and after the game. Although no assailant has been caught, Matta took a position on it, affirming his player’s claim. Bo Ryan dismissed the topic after no evidence reached him that legitimized Sullinger’s tweet.

Whether it actually happened or not, the claim (and the loss) will surely make for a fiery reunion on March 6.

And clearly Posey received a boost of motivation after watching another No. 1 OSU team lose in Madison.

I’m not aware of any Wisconsin players publicly engaging in this kind of chatter, but when a rivalry can cross sports like this so fluidly, you got to like the chances of it becoming a great annual competition.

I know its tradition to feel that added sense of determination and rancor for Minnesota, but who are we kidding? Right now, Ohio State is where that belongs.

Elliot Hughes is a junior majoring in journalism. How much do you dislike the Buckeyes compared to other Big Ten schools? Tell him about it at [email protected].

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