Each preseason, the University of Wisconsin-Madison men’s basketball team scrimmages one of the eight teams in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference on a rotational basis.
The Badgers weren’t scheduled to play UW-Platteville for another five seasons since the two teams played an exhibition game before the 2013-14 season. But Greg Gard and Jeff Gard, men’s basketball team coaches for UW-Madison and UW-Platteville, respectively, will play Oct. 30 at the Kohl Center.
The Gard’s father, Glen, passed away Oct. 30, 2015 after a brief battle with Glioblastoma Multiforme, a rare form of brain cancer. This year’s exhibition will serve as the Brain Cancer Awareness Game in Glen’s memory, with his sons’ teams facing off.
“As you come to the anniversary of it, there’s always a lot of hurdles to try to get over,” Greg Gard said, with his brother Jeff by his side during an emotional news conference Monday morning.
The UW-Madison Athletic Department has partnered with the UW Carbone Cancer Center, and the day of the game will revolve around celebrating the doctors and researchers who work to find a cure for cancer on the Madison campus.
Greg Gard said he heard from other families who have endured the grieving process after losing a loved one to cancer, and their advice to him was to do something that would remind the family of the good times on the particularly tough days, like the one-year anniversary of Glen’s passing.
“Rather than us sitting around and being sorrowful on that day, moping around, shedding some tears, which there will still be some shed, but to do something positive,” Greg Gard said. “To help other people, bring awareness to this disease.”
Jeff Gard said he took little convincing to be involved, calling the idea a “homerun.” WIAC Commissioner Gary Karner took the idea to the other coaches in his league and all of them agreed for an exception in the tradition, Greg Gard said.
Jeff Gard also said their family now has a stage to make an impact in the cancer research arena and want to take advantage of that.
“That’s what Dad was all about — to better somebody else’s life,” Jeff Gard said. “Even to this day, that’s what he’s still all about.”
When asked what Glen would tell his boys before the game, Greg Gard responded:
“Don’t take it easy on him,” Greg Gard said. “He’d probably tell him the same thing. Have fun with it, that would probably be the biggest thing.”
“He’ll be there smiling down,” Greg Gard said.