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Mount Badger: Wisconsin football’s top four Camp Randall traditions

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University of Wisconsin athletics is putting the final touches on the south end zone renovations at Camp Randall. Opening day is just a few days away so here's a sneak peak of the new look.

Wisconsin football is one of the major brands in the Big Ten. Much of that is because of the on-field success demonstrated by the Badgers across the decades. The Barry Alvarez era ushered in this current golden age for the program.  

But another key factor is the awesome game day atmosphere. No. 18 Wisconsin opens the season this Saturday vs. Illinois State. It’s a guarantee that Camp Randall will be an electric environment filled with cardinal and white clad fans. 

Camp Randall has been Wisconsin’s home dating all the way back to 1895. The state landmark is the oldest stadium in the Big Ten and has the fifth-largest capacity in the conference. 

The hallowed venue provides a daunting backdrop for opposing teams. Wisconsin has registered five double-digit winning streaks at Camp Randall. The longest streak was 21 games from October 31, 2009 to October 27, 2012. 

In the latest edition of Mount Badger, BadgerExtra reflects on the top four traditions at Camp Randall. Wisconsin has had its share of pretty cool rituals over the years, so narrowing the list to four was certainly challenging. 

Here’s what we came up with for the best traditions at Camp Randall (plus an honorable mention): 

Jump Around

The third quarter ends. The infectious hip-hop beat drops. Kinetic energy instinctually floods the student section. 

It’s time to “Jump Around” and it’s quite the sight to behold. 

The lively House of Pain song has been embedded in the earlobes of Wisconsin football fans since the tradition began in 1998. The sea of crazed fans bouncing and swaying is the personification of fall Saturdays.  

It all begins with the 1998 Homecoming and the genius of Ryan Sondrup. No. 12 Wisconsin is 5-0. Drew Brees and Purdue stroll into Madison for the primetime matchup. 

Sondrup was an injured tight end. He also served as a marketing intern for the program. With the extra spare time while out of the lineup, Sondrup gives his boss a list of songs that could spark the crowd. 

 “Jump Around” leaps off the list and into the sound system as the third quarter concludes. The song was an immediate rallying cry. The student section explodes like popping kernels. Wisconsin defeats Purdue 31-24 en route to the Big Ten title and a victory vs. UCLA in the Rose Bowl. 

The tradition was paused for the 2003 opener without prior explanation to the fans. Camp Randall was undergoing renovations that included skyboxes. UW officials were concerned about the stability of the stadium to withstand the jumping. 

Needless to say, fans were furious. Middle fingers were raised. Boos showered down. Vulgar chants were slurred. The crowd protested by sitting for the remainder of the game. The fans launched a protest once they learned the next day the decision came from the university. 

Structural engineers determined “Jump Around” wouldn’t cause any serious damage to Camp Randall. Wisconsin Chancellor John D. Wiley announces two days later that the tradition will return.

Thankfully “Jump Around” is still alive and well almost a quarter century later, because it’s hard to imagine Camp Randall without it. The song is a staple and synonymous with Wisconsin football.  

Wisconsin is still seeking its first national title. But whenever the Badgers break through, you already know what the first song will be at the parade. 

The Fifth Quarter

From adversity birthed a cherished tradition. 

The Badgers were mired in a 24-game losing streak when Michael Leckrone took over the Wisconsin Marching Band in 1969. In tandem with Wisconsin AD Elroy Hirsch, The Fifth Quarter launched to boost morale. 

The postgame set consisted of fan favorite songs such as “Tequila”, “On, Wisconsin” and “Space Badgers”. 

The performance instantly became a hit at Camp Randall and The Fifth Quarter name was officially given to the performance in 1978. Leckrone served as the marching band director for 50 years until retiring in 2018. 

Many fans stick long after games to enjoy the performance. A lot of the songs have specific choreography that encourages fan participation. The Fifth Quarter band is loaded with flair, as they perform while standing on their heads, rolling around on the ground, and even on their backs while kicking their legs in the air. 

The band gathers to play “Varsity” at the conclusion of The Fifth Quarter as the fans join together to sing the lyrics. 

The heralded Fifth Quarter has performed across the country in cities such as Las Vegas, New York, and Seattle. 

While a Wisconsin victory is always the best result, The Fifth Quarter always delivers fans with a winning combination of music. 

Bucky Badger’s pushup prowess 

If you’re a student trying out for the role of Bucky Badger, the main requirement is you’d better be physically fit. The Wisconsin mascot is famous for his in-game pushups. 

Each time Wisconsin scores a touchdown, Bucky Badger matches the amount of the team’s points. For example, if Wisconsin scores a touchdown to reach 35 points, Bucky Badger will do 35 pushups. 

The tradition started during Alvarez’s first season (1991) to drum up excitement after a 1-10 campaign the prior year. Three former Bucky Badger mascots created a board for each of them to perform pushups that were visible to the Camp Randall spectators. 

The fans loved the competition and Wisconsin defeated Eastern Michigan 21-6. 

Bucky Badger ripped through a personal-record 573 pushups when Wisconsin pummeled Indiana 83-20 in 2010. The wear and tear was significant for the person underneath the iconic costume. 

 “I couldn’t feel my arms,” The 2010 Bucky Badger mascot said to the Wisconsin State Journal. “It was pure Jell-O.”

Kudos to all the buff Bucky Badgers since the 1990s that have literally pushed through with this tradition. It’s taxing and grueling, even more so considering they’re donning a 35-pound Badger head. 

Hopefully this season’s Bucky the Badger was hitting the gym in the summer because the opener could be a high-scoring affair against an FCS opponent. 

The Wisconsin Wave

Ok I know what you’re probably thinking if you’ve never seen it. The wave? Really? How can something so commonplace be an epic tradition? 

But this is far from your regular wave, bro (Surfer voice). Until you’re immersed in the massive ocean of participants, there’s just no way to articulate the shared experience. 

The student section sends the wave at a regular pace counter-clockwise throughout Camp Randall. After that round finishes, the wave returns again at an extremely slow pace. Then the tempo picks up for a fast-paced wave. Finally, the stadium fragments and there’s two counter waves splashing against each other. 

The tradition dates back to 1985 and it makes for a spectacular visual. Other stadiums across the country do the wave. However, nothing compares to the uniqueness of Wisconsin’s version. 

"It just looks so cool, especially the slo-mo wave. It's so simple, but it's so traditional for a football game," Wisconsin student Steve Miller said in 2009 to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. 

So no, this isn’t your routine, run-of-the-mill wave. It’s hard enough to even get a full stadium to successfully carry out the typical wave. Shout out to the Wisconsin fans for their mastery of this sick remix.

Honorary mention: Build Me Up Buttercup 

“Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations is a sweet treat for fans to enjoy. The 1968 hit song was made popular again by the 1998 movie “There’s Something About Mary”. 

The soulful song made its way into the rotation at Camp Randall in the early 2000s. Whenever the DJ shuffles to the crowd favorite, it’s bound to make fans joyfully dance and sing.

Russell Wilson made his first start with the Wisconsin Badgers football team 11 years ago this week.

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