In a contest Fox News described as a “laugher,” the Wisconsin Badgers eked out a 44-14 football win yesterday over the Wofford College Terriers. Shame, Wisconsin. Shame, Wofford.
Yes, I know Big Ten teams traditionally warm up with a couple of opening games against patsies. Yes, I know the patsies occasionally rise up and embarrass one of the biggies with an upset. But, Wofford?
It’s somewhat surprising the Terriers can field a team. The student body on the Spartanburg, South Carolina, campus numbers a whopping 1,400. Wisconsin only has some 40,000 bodies to select its semi-pro players from. It’s amazing a few Terriers didn’t get killed in the game at Madison. Certainly, at least some of the visiting student-athletes suffered psychological damage from the beating they took. That is not what collegiate football should be about.
Greed motivates both parties in this kind of horrendous scheduling. The overpaid Wisconsin athletic director and coach want an easy win to pad the season record. The goal is a post-season bowl invitation. That brings millions of extra dollars directly to the school, and indirectly to them. Their needier counterparts at Wofford take home a tidy visitor's share of the gate from a game before more than 70,000 at Camp Randall. The extra cash will run a big part of their athletic program this year.
When I was a student at Madison, it worked exactly that way every fall. Marquette, known as the Hilltoppers when I first attended a game in Milwaukee, visited Camp Randall for the season opener year after year. Wisconsin always won, Marquette always started the year with a good payday. The students had some fun. The Marquette crew offered up a disparaging song starting with “Marquette was on the hilltop when Wisconsin was a pup. . .” Badgers countered with their version of the Marquette fight song, which ended spelling the school’s name as “M-A-R-K-E-T.”
But comparing Marquette and Wofford is ridiculous. Marquette had nearly 10,000 students at the time; Wisconsin about 15,000. Marquette had a proud football tradition, including major bowl appearances in the past. Marquette played nationally known teams as part of its regular schedule. Marquette lost one of the openers at Wisconsin during my student days by a slender margin, and the Badgers had a very good team that year featuring all-America fullback Alan Ameche.
The kind of greed displayed by Wisconsin and Wofford in scheduling their game is just plain disgusting. The college and university administrators who sanction these sorts of travesties are the same men and women we trust to educate the future leaders of our nation. That is just plain frightening.