Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


W Club fosters connection between former Letterwinners, current student athletes at UW

Distinguished alumni can reconnect with university through program for distinguished current, past athletes
Mike Hall

For over 100 years, the University of Wisconsin’s athletic sphere has served as a venue for student athletes to showcase their prowess on the playing field.

Conference championships, title banners and distinguished individual awards may glisten in trophy rooms or an arena’s rafters, but arguably the most powerful honor in the Badger sports universe is something you can’t hoist — legacy.

Multiple generations of student athletes know what it feels like to don the cardinal and white on the turf, ice, pitch, track, hardwood or gridiron. Only a select cohort, however, can stake claim to earning the university’s varsity athletic insignia “W” while representing the Badgers.


Since 1949, Wisconsin’s W Club, the university’s official Letterwinner organization, has dedicated its efforts towards this distinguished legacy.

In striving to nurture, protect and celebrate the history deriving from participation in intercollegiate athletics, the W Club provides services committed to elevating the lives of UW’s Letterwinners.

Executive director of the W Club and strategic partnerships Nick Pasquarello recognizes the thrill of pocketing the coveted “W” as a UW student athlete. From 1990-1994, Pasquarello laced up his cleats for the men’s soccer team and even notched 14 victories as the platoon’s goalkeeper in ‘94.

Pit stops as a professional soccer player awaited in Minnesota, Indianapolis, Atlanta and Kansas City awaited him following graduation, but his roots remained in Madison. For over two decades, Pasquarello has coached and excelled in furthering the university’s corporate outreach efforts.

His focus now, though, lies within enhancing the experiences of former Badger Letterwinners. To accomplish this, the W Club hones in on two primary pillars — the Badger network and the Badger family.

“We have former student athletes that are all over the country, all over the world, in a lot of different roles and industries,” Pasquarello said. “The Badger Network focuses on how we tap into and leverage that network so Badgers can help Badgers if they need a job or if they’re relocating to a new city … It doesn’t matter if they played football in the seventies, soccer in the nineties or volleyball last year. They’re all going to help each other.”

With nearly 10,000 living Letterwinners, Pasquarello acknowledged the W Club’s significance in building consensus among former student athletes to advise the next generation.

The same type of impact applies through the Badger family lens.

“For me, that’s really just as simple as celebrating what it means to be a Badger,” Pasquarello said. “We execute that through our reunions and celebrations … We’ll do that throughout the course of the year, bring people back, let them relive memories, hear stories, connect with teammates and coaches. I believe there’s a lot of power in nostalgia. We’re trying to create those experiences and then harness that power.”

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To those unfamiliar with the W Club, the organization’s genesis may appear a bit hazy. Yearbooks from the early 20th century included the title for associations both affiliated and unaffiliated with the athletic sphere, but its modern functionality officially commenced in 1949.

What began as a small alumni group has blossomed into an outlet for decorated alumni to reunite and reminisce at their alma maters.

“We represent 36 sports,” Pasquarello said. “Twenty-three of them are current varsity sports, and we have 13 legacy sports like boxing, baseball and gymnastics … It’s important to provide the distinction that the W Club is the letter winner organization. That criteria is set forth by the head coach at the time, and you have to earn that letter by meeting that criteria. That’s what gets you into a pretty elite demographic.”

The W Club also collaborates with the university’s athletic programs in identifying viable candidates to drop the ceremonial puck or act as a guest captain for a particular contest.

Given the sheer number of logistics and fluidity surrounding UW’s surplus of athletic programs, the W Club alleviates some of the stress revolving around these choices.

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Plus, the corridors and opportunities opened through the W Club have resulted in some of the most memorable moments in alumni history. Prior to Wisconsin’s homecoming bout against Rutgers University, former Letterwinners flanked UW’s tunnel to welcome head coach Luke Fickell and co. to Camp Randall.

“That moment right there, that’s one of those things that is 100% worth all of the hard work and the collaboration that goes into that the W-Club side, the marketing side, the event side,” Pasquarello said. “That’s something that started maybe 12 or 15 years ago, and we’ve really been able to make sure that that Letterwinter tunnel takes place during homecoming … I still get goosebumps when the players run through their tunnel. Just to see the pure joy and pride of my fellow Badgers down there is worth every little bit of the logistics, bringing it all together.”

Recently, members of the W Club also kick-started a new initiative called Badger Alumni Athletes Supporting Kids.

In establishing a partnership with the American Family Children’s Hospital, the W Club hopes to build relationships and positively impact the lives of young patients.

“For a lot of student athletes that came through here, one of their fondest memories is going over to the children’s hospital, engaging with the children, making their day a little bit brighter and bringing some joy to them,” Pasquarello said. “There are a lot of Letterwinners out there that would still like to be able to give back, but they don’t know how to do it. We’ve partnered with them to do something around the holidays where former student athletes can come back with their families and engage with the children’s hospital. To continue to tap into the passion that our former student athletes have for giving back and providing these opportunities, I think is going to be super powerful.”

These relationships can also propel current student athletes towards success outside the playing field.

In connecting alumni with today’s student athletes, the W Club provides a boost for young scholars on the job market. As Badgers with shared experiences, former Letterwinners recognize the value a student athlete can bring as a potential employee — in this sense, the skills developed as a Badger may be applicable to occupations in the public or private sector.

In sport, pressure remains at a premium. Overcoming these roadblocks and suppressing stresses or pressure can create stress for any student, let alone a student athlete. The W Club, dedicated to service for celebrated athletes both present and past, attempts to quell these feelings and create an atmosphere rooted in excellence.

“Sometimes it’s just good for our former student athletes to come in and talk to our current student athletes about life,” Pasquarello said. “We talk a lot about those transitions from becoming a student athlete out of high school and then transitioning out. To make those connections from our former student athletes who have gone through that and then being able to navigate it and connect them with our current kids is a really powerful value proposition.”

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