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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Action-packed summer paves way for exciting fall for Badger Athletics

Previewing UW's athletic sphere this fall
Justin Mielke


Sweeping changes and high expectations for the upcoming season defined an eventful summer for sports at the University of Wisconsin.

The first signal that UW Athletic Director Chris Mcintosh would not tolerate mediocrity and transformation was on the horizon came in December, when Mcintosh chose Luke Fickell to lead a complete rebuild of the football program.


From hiring an “Air Raid” offensive coordinator to the influx of transfers in the January portal window, Fickell provided exactly that immediately following his hiring. These changes continued over the summer as Fickell continued to stamp his impact on the program.

The primary focus of every college football program over the summer is its upcoming recruiting class, and this summer, Fickell and co. locked in on convincing rising high school seniors from around the country to pledge their futures to the red and white.

Football: Wisconsin debuts Luke Fickell era with a 38-17 victory over Buffalo

While there are still several months before early signing day in December, the Badger’s 2024 recruiting class is shaping up to be a great one. With a current overall rank of 24th in the country per 247Sports, this class would be the Badger’s second-best in the past 15 years.

This class also reflects a shift in philosophy due to Fickell’s eagerness to find talents from around the country. The group consists of players from 13 different states and only two players from the state of Wisconsin.

The revamp of the football program will be on more than just the field. Over the summer, Wisconsin hired Van Wagner, a behemoth in the sports production industry, to enhance the in-person experience at Camp Randall.

These changes, including removing Wisconsin’s pregame runout song “Where The Streets Have No Name,” will hopefully improve a Camp Randall game day atmosphere that grew stale by the end of last season. In a recent press conference, Coach Fickell addressed one problem in particular he hoped these changes would tackle.

“I’m curious to see how our students show up,” Fickell said. “If we can try to find a way to get them in a little bit earlier.”

UW junior Nicole Butz offered an outlook similar to Wisconsin football fans throughout the country–overall optimism.

“I think we could be really good this year.,” Butz said. “The team will be a lot more fun than those in the past few years.”

Notes, highlights, projections for UW athletics in 2023

Men’s Basketball

The eventful summer was not limited to the football team. The Wisconsin men’s basketball team is also working to improve after a lackluster 2022-2023 campaign.

Sophomore guard Conner Essegian and incoming sophomore transfer guard AJ Storr both experienced international competition while representing Armenia and the Bahamas, respectively.

Meanwhile, Greg Gard was busy on the recruitment trail, adding 4-star point guard Daniel Freitag to his 2024 recruiting class. Freitag will be the fifth highest-rated player to ever sign for Wisconsin, according to the 247Sports composite, if he fulfills his commitment.

Men’s Hockey

The other major off-season coaching change in the athletic department was hiring Mike Hastings to lead the Men’s Hockey team. With him, Hastings brought a string of transfers from his previous squad, Minnesota State, to help give the Badgers some more firepower.

Hastings was also hot on the recruiting trail, securing commitments from Center Gavin Morrisey and defenseman Luke Osborn and Logan Hensler. These commitments could be key in the Badger’s quest to revive the former powerhouse program.

Kohl Center and LaBahn Arena

The hockey and basketball teams may also be aided by an off-court decision the athletic department made this summer.

This past month, UW announced it will begin selling alcohol at the Kohl Center and LaBahn Arena for both Basketball and Hockey games. This is a welcome change that could help the atmosphere, according to Ben McLenaghan, the president of Wisconsin’s student section, AreaRED.

“I think that selling alcohol will definitely help more than it hurts,” McLenaghan said. “I think it’s honestly really good timing as we’ve been seeing a general increase in the rowdiness and energy of basketball and hockey fans at the Kohl Center, so I’m glad that this is a compliment to that.”

Several more fall Badger sports have begun or will begin play soon, toting high expectations.


The Wisconsin volleyball team opened the season 5-0, including two wins over #21 Arkansas and a win over #24 Tennessee. This strong start earned the Badgers a first place national ranking in the AVCA Volleyball poll.


The Women’s soccer team started the season hot, with three wins, one loss and two draws in their first five games. Buoyed by a dominant 3-0 win against LSU and a hard-fought 0-0 tie on the road against number three North Carolina, the women’s squad should be competitive at the top of the Big Ten once again.

The Badger men’s team is having their best start to the season in years, with three wins and a loss in their first four games. Second-year coach Neil Jones led the team to a victory over Kentucky, the number two team in the country at the time. The United Soccer Coaches recently awarded the team with a ranking of number 21, their highest ranking since 2018.

Cross Country

The Cross country programs will also begin their seasons with lofty goals. The men’s team was ranked #5, and the Women’s team was ranked #18 in the USTFCCCA national preseason poll.

Among all the hoopla of conference realignment, Chris McIntosh and the athletic department have not been afraid to make changes they believe will best position the Badgers for the future. As the fall season gets underway, we’ll see if their choices pay off.

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