Camp Randall: A Premier Destination

Zach Remelius, Courier Staff

This week I decided to forgo my usual top 25 and explain an experience. I am sure most can tell I am a college football junkie, most of my Saturdays start with ESPN’s College Gameday at 9 a.m. and finish with whatever Pac-12 game is on the docket late at night (looking at you Washington State-UCLA).

However, after visiting Iowa last year, I created a list of the stadiums I wanted to visit with my best friend who is as big of a college football fan as I am. On the list are the big names, of course, LSU and Clemson’s “Death Valley” Kyle Field down at Texas A&M, the historic Rose Bowl and several others we wanted to see before it’s too late. On top of both our lists, though, was Camp Randall in Madison, Wis. So, over the summer we tried to figure out a weekend and decided to make a dream come true and go to the Wisconsin-Michigan game.

Eleven a.m. kickoffs are never fun for tailgates, but the scene was outstanding. We got up at 7 a.m., got ready and headed out to walk around the town and take everything in. The people were friendly and there weren’t any hostilities with any of the Michigan fans. Being a massive fan of the SEC, this isn’t always a foregone conclusion, so it was nice to see. People everywhere were offering us food while throwing up a “W” for their Badgers. The tailgates weren’t centralized, but spread out all over the town and the restaurant/bar scene also had a lot of people just being genuinely awesome. After touring around for a little bit longer, it was getting closer to kickoff and it was time to head into the stadium.

I’ve been to several college football stadiums but this was the biggest by far. The athletic department decided to promote this game as the big game it was nationally and the goal was to stripe the stadium with one section in red the next in white and so on. The student section would be the only thing different as they would all be in white. The stadium gradually filled and initially, I was disappointed with the student section as they filled up their section rather slowly. Even by the time the first quarter was coming to a close, they were still coming in, but it was eventually filled. The Wisconsin band is as good as any, so the pregame festivities were enjoyable and not just a time waster to get to kickoff.

The game started remarkably well for the Badgers. Jonathon Taylor carried the offense down the field and eventually punched it in for Wisconsin. The game wouldn’t get much better for the Wolverines in what ended up being a 35-14 loss. Another day fans can talk about what this loss means for Jim Harbough and the Michigan program, the total from Saturday’s game should be about Wisconsin. The defense looked fast and didn’t allow anything on the ground to the Wolverines. The offense was efficient on the ground and Jack Coan can make a third-down throw when he needs to. He also showed the ability to run a little bit as his 25-yard touchdown run right before halftime put Wisconsin up 28-0 and essentially ended the game. Jonathon Taylor went for 203 yards on the ground and two touchdowns. The best running back in the country put up some numbers in a signature game and if he can keep doing that, there is no reason he shouldn’t be invited to New York for the Heisman ceremony. All in all, it was a good day to be a Badger fan as they throttled Michigan all game and the score was not indicative of how dominant Wisconsin was.

The real reason Wisconsin was a destination was for the atmosphere. Eleven a.m. kickoffs don’t always parlay into the most hostile environments as the crowd doesn’t have as much time to partake in adult beverages and prepare for the game. That wasn’t the case here. Even with a good chunk of the student section empty, the crowd was loud for Michigan’s first drive. I couldn’t hear myself think. No one person was sitting and it only got louder as the stadium got a little more full. Four letter expletives were chanted by the student section at Jim Harbough and the Michigan football team and it kept up the whole game. A Wisconsin tradition has become to sing “Build Me Up Buttercup” by The Foundations at some point during the game. The cool part is the crowd sings along with the music and then when the music cuts they keep singing. An entire stadium singing a 60s classic with no aid from anything, just 80,000 people having fun. The big tradition is “Jump Around” by House of Pain. At the end of every third quarter after a couple of promotions, the song comes out and the best way to put it is everyone goes nuts. It looks like a lot of fun on TV, but nothing can compare to it, in real life. Seeing how the Badger team gets into it especially since they were up so big, was a sight to see. The game winded down with the Wisconsin win and it was time to leave and head out to our evening plans.

If you are a fan of college football, Camp Randall should be on your bucket list. It has everything you would want in a destination spot for the sport. There is nothing like it in the state of Illinois. The Illini and Northwestern have their moments but they can not compare to Madison on game day. The drive isn’t too bad and hopefully, you have a friend that will allow you to have a place to sleep. This was easily the most fun I have ever had at a college football game and I hope one day you all can share in my experience.