With all college and professional sports postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19, there is little to look forward to for Badger sports fans in the immediate future. At the beginning of the crisis, it was believed that football beginning in the fall was one event that could be counted on to continue as planned.
The NFL made it clear that they had no plans to delay their season or even limit fans’ ability to attend their 16 game season. Yet, even these plans are now called into question as this pandemic continues to wreak havoc on American society and the world at large.
As unfortunate as it may be for all those competitors and fans who were looking forward to the beginning of football in the fall, there is a greater and greater chance that large gatherings will still not be allowed roughly four months from now. Even if college and NFL seasons are able to continue, it is hard to imagine they can continue with crowds of 80,000-plus fans attending their games on a regular basis.
For Wisconsin, this means Camp Randall is increasingly becoming an improbable destination for flocks of Badger fans come August. With almost everything in the sports world in question, it’s a great time to look back at some of the best moments in Camp Randall history.
Arguably the best regular season win in Wisconsin history and the most monumental upset pulled off at Camp Randall, the Badgers’ win over the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes in 2010 starts off our list.
The Buckeyes entered Madison undefeated and boasting a top-12 win over Miami of Florida. Yet, the stage was set early for a special upset victory as David Gilreath returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown. I’ve seen some loud moments during the games I’ve attended at Camp Randall, but even through the grainy-quality YouTube video of the ESPN broadcast, you can tell this crowd was on another level. This is certainly a time that I would pay quite a bit of money to have the ability to witness in person.
John Clay would go on to punch in another Badger score just five minutes into the first quarter, giving the Badgers a commanding 14 point lead early in the game. The Ohio State showed life late, though, as they brought the game within three points early in the fourth quarter — they clearly weren’t intimidated by jump around. With unrelenting defensive stops, led predominately by Wisconsin legend J.J. Watt, the Badgers ultimately held on for the remainder of the game and came out on top 31–18.
Pandemonium ensued. Fans flooded the field in celebration of a win for the ages. It’s the type of win every competitor hopes to have just once in their life. More relevant for the rest of us, it’s the type of game we can only hope to be lucky enough to attend. I will forever envy those who were fortunate enough to be in Camp Randall that night in October of 2010.
The second moment I feel warrants recognition as one of the great moments in the history of Camp Randall is the first ever “Jump Around.” This has become a signature tradition that makes its way into multiple areas of university culture, including Badger apparel and even commencement ceremonies.
It was homecoming night of 1998 and, “Jump Around” was a five-year-old hit song which had largely fallen by the wayside in the ensuing years. Yet, for some reason, it found its way onto Camp Randall’s playlist that night and sparked a movement that would be suspended shortly in 2003 only out of concern that the vibrations caused by the thousands of jumping bodies would damage the stadium that was under construction at the time.
For students and all Badger fans who have found their way to a football game at Camp Randall sometime over the last 21 years, there is little that can compare to the uniqueness of the “Jump Around” tradition and the energy it brings to the stadium. Even if you end up out of breath after the whole ordeal, it always seems to spark a rally from the crowd when the Badgers need it most.
Those who played that song for the first time against Purdue in 1998 surely didn’t know they had sparked a tradition, but the lasting impact the choice had on Badger culture is the reason it warrants a spot on this list.
This list is far from exhaustive, but the third and final moment I’ll bring up here as part of the highlights of Camp Randall’s history is former Wisconsin band director Mike Leckrone’s final fifth quarter celebration. Leckrone is undoubtedly one of the great all-time figures in Wisconsin lore and his image is one that will always be tied to Wisconsin’s impressive band program.
The fifth quarter was his brain-child and it continues to inspire joy from all those who choose to stay a little longer after a football game and witness the absurdity it offers. There’s little that it can be compared to, and it’s one of those things that’s hard to describe to someone who has never experienced it before.
Especially after winning a big game or taking down a rival, there is little that can match the celebration and ridiculousness that is all wrapped up in the fifth quarter. Even after the Badgers lost their rival game to Minnesota in November 2018, rows of Badger faithful stayed back to honor Leckrone and his massive contributions to UW during his final fifth quarter.
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It was a wonderful moment and a great sendoff for a man who has dedicated so much of his life to improving the Wisconsin band and the experience of generations of fans who visited Camp Randall.
Even if Camp Randall’s status as the center of UW during the Fall is in Jeopardy, it is always worthwhile to take a look back and what makes it such a special place for everyone who attends UW or calls themselves a Badger fan.