Cody Cousino / Photo editor
Fans of the Wisconsin athletics, particularly the football team, have developed an unflattering reputation around the Big Ten that even the most loyal Badgers fans admit to. A legendary Buckeyes’ running back attested to the hostile nature of Wisconsin fans as well.
Former OSU back and two-time Heisman trophy winner Archie Griffin said that when he played from 1972 to 1975, Michigan and Iowa fans were the most inhospitable to Buckeyes players and fans.
“When I played, Wisconsin fans weren’t bad because we used to beat them all the time,” Griffin told The Lantern. “So, it wasn’t even an issue. For the most part, the Big Ten is pretty good… But now, they (Wisconsin fans) can be pretty rugged. “
Wisconsin fan Darrick Reilly, 41, traveled from Illinois to support the Badgers at Ohio Stadium on Saturday. Reilly said that he received a warm welcome in Columbus, but added that a similar welcome for OSU fans in Madison, Wis., would be unlikely.
“Some of the student chants are ridculous,” Reilly said. “It’s a big initiative by Wisconsin to be more friendly to opposing fans, I do know that.”
Jeff Detra, 42, also traveled from Illinois to cheer for Wisconsin, and he agreed with Reilly.
“People could get that negative impression from going to a (Wisconsin) game,” Detra said. “Some of the chants that the student body does, I could see that.”
Reilly said that a community initiative entitled “Rolling Out the Red Carpet,” which was undertaken by the University of Wisconsin’s Madison campus in 2004, has attempted to quell behavior issues. According to uwathletics.com, “Rolling Out the Red Carpet” attempts to build “new, welcoming traditions for all sports fans.”
Ken Werner, 65, of Mukwonago, Wis., said he remains embarrassed by the current state of the Wisconsin fan base.
Werner is a fixture at Wisconsin games — both at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison and at road venues — and is known for his flamboyant game-day attire.
Werner wore a red kilt and matching Wisconsin Badgers-themed vest and bow tie Saturday and said he, too, had been welcomed to Columbus by Buckeyes fans.
“I’m proud of the Buckeye people,” Werner said during a pregame tailgate party. “They’re courteous, generous and well behaved.”
Werner, who said he has attended 250 consecutive Badgers games dating back to the mid-1980s, added that the Wisconsin football fan base was not deserving of equal praise.
“Clearly, our fans are the worst in the Big Ten,” Werner said. “I was just talking about this with some other Wisconsin fans here, and a lot of it has to do with drinking. We’re embarrassed by it. It’s not good.”
Werner said he’s traveled to every stadium in the Big Ten and has witnessed a widespread change among fans all over America — instead of rooting for their team, fans focus on jeering their opponents.
“Fans are no longer rooting for their team as much as being disrespectful of not only the opposing team, but being disrespectful of the opposing fans,” he said. “I’m a target because of what I wear, but its very verbally abusive. It’s a sad commentary on college football fandom.”
Werner said that of the 56 college football venues he has visited in his life the ‘Shoe is his favorite.
“I tell people that if you want to go to a football temple, it is Ohio Stadium,” Werner said. “I get tears in my eyes walking up to it just because it’s where the gladiators come to play on a given Saturday.”
It is not known whether Werner still harbored good will toward the ‘Shoe and the OSU community after the outcome of Saturday’s game, though.
Saturday’s back and forth affair between the Buckeyes and the then-No.12-ranked Badgers ended in dramatic fashion as freshman quarterback Braxton Miller connected with classmate and receiver Devin Smith on a go-ahead touchdown to put OSU up, 33-29, with 20 seconds remaining in the game.
OSU held on for the upset victory, its second against a ranked opponent in as many games.
Detra said that win or lose, the experience of traveling to opposing Big Ten schools and respecting each school’s traditions was most important.
“It’s the tradition of the schools that each school presents,” he said. “Just the rivalries and the competition — that’s what matters most. Not the negative stuff.”
The Buckeyes continue conference play at home Saturday against Indiana at noon.