PantherU

You can vote to abandon history now

With the open of the 2014-15 school year, the Milwaukee Panthers athletic department is preparing once again to try and drum up student interest in the athletics program. The stakes are high – if the incoming freshmen class is properly amped up, the basketball season will see hundreds of students in the student section at every game. If the freshmen aren’t interested, it could be another season where they only show up for big games, and you can expect important conference match-ups to involve few students.

As time goes on, the success or lack thereof in attracting students to athletics grows more pronounced. If the students of today are excited about basketball, the school will lose less of them in the stands over their college careers. The more students are engaged with basketball through graduation, the more of them we can retain as season ticket holders after graduation. Of those season ticket holders, a percentage will become donors – for athletics and academics.

As you can see, it’s important to make students care about the athletics program. And the AD uses many things to try and engage students. Giveaways have been used all over the country, but most new students that show up for those are only looking for free stuff. Rewards programs could work better over time; when I was a freshman, the soccer team had a punch card system: fill up the punch card by attending every home game, and you get a personalized jersey at the end of the season. It’s more expensive, but we sure had a bunch of students at every soccer game that year.

One thing that has seen a major push has been engagement through social media. The students are on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, so the athletics program has been all over those trying to pull people into the program.

So as you might guess, I’ve kept a pretty close eye on how the AD has kept the social media flow going. And something jumped out at me the other day.

newname

It’s a nice idea. Get the students engaged by allowing them to help choose the name of the student section for basketball games. If they’re

Part of the problem students have with Milwaukee is that in some ways, it doesn’t feel like a real university. I’m sure there are several reasons for this that are out of our control.

For one, the Panthers don’t play NCAA football. One of the timeless points in college that most Americans conjure up include Saturday afternoons, the leaves falling and the whole town packed into the stadium to cheer on their team. We don’t have that advantage, and we never will, at least not on the level that most of the UWM community would prefer.

Second, there’s very little Greek presence on campus. That has to do with the fact that we’re an urban university with only 60 or so years of history as a full-on doctoral university as much as anything else. The scandals surrounding the TKE house in the past year have pretty much doomed any lasting, traditional Greek life to take root at UWM.

Being in a big city like Milwaukee has as much as anything to do with this. Campus isn’t as close as Marquette is to trouble areas, but it’s not far enough that it’s totally fine. The campus sports teams are far from the only sports teams in the city, so it rarely feels like a big-time atmosphere. Pretty much the only time it feels like the Arena is the place to be is when Wisconsin or Marquette is playing us there, or when we’re hosting the Horizon League Championship (thanks HL). The fact that the arena is off campus doesn’t help.

Those shortcomings can be masked by certain things, the biggest of which is tradition – the idea that going to mid-major basketball games may not be Big 10, but there have been many who came before and did these same things, and I want to be a part of that. As far as tradition goes, we don’t have a lot of it.

One thing we do have, is the name of the student section. I did a relatively poor job passing the torch of the student section off to the next guy when I was a senior. That’s one thing I wish I could have done over. Another thing, though, was passing on the history of the student section.

Most people believe that the name Klotsche Krazies came about when Bo Ryan got to campus and made the team better while they were playing in the Klotsche Center. It makes sense. If I were to guess how the name came about, I’d guess that too – or maybe that Bruce Pearl got it going when he got to campus. Both coaches started their tenure in the Klotsche Center (side note, few know that it was Bruce Pearl who convinced the university to permanently move downtown). Add that the most famous student section is at Duke as the Cameron Crazies, and the Klotsche Krazies seem fairly unoriginal.

It’s not true, however. The history of the Klotsche Krazies is much longer than most people ever knew. When I was a student at UWM, I interviewed a few former students and found the name actually dates all the way back to the early 1970’s, when the Board of Trustees was looking to cut the arts and athletics programs on campus to save money. This comes from a page from the original PantherU.com, and I’ll resurrect it after this post goes up (I’ve updated it slightly):

The student section at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is called the Klotsche Krazies. They attend as many athletic events as possible, leading the cheers of the crowd and existing as the unofficial 6th man in basketball games, and emotional support for all Panther squads.

The Klotsche Krazies are all students who join for the love of UWM and the love of the game.

So why are we the Klotsche Krazies? The men’s basketball team doesn’t play in the Klotche Center anymore, they play in the U.S. Cellular Arena, and our most successful sport, soccer, plays at Engelmann Field. So why do we cling to the Klotsche Krazies name?

I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is no. The Klotsche Krazies are not a rip-off of the Cameron Crazies at Duke. We have our own history, and our own cheers. This page exists to educate those who are just arriving on campus and those who do not know the story behind our name.

To first explain the name of the student section, we need to introduce the namesake. J. Martin Klotsche, whose parents immigrated to America from Germany when he was very young, grew up teaching. He eventually ended up at the University of Wisconsin as a PhD student in the 1930s, decades before they would add “-Madison” to the end of their name. The history professor would be highly popular when he moved to Milwaukee to be in the faculty at the Milwaukee State Teachers College, the predecessor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

When he became the President of the school in 1946, he realized there were serious problems facing the city and the school. The city needed a full-fledged university, not some liberal arts college that pumped out teachers like an assembly line. So Klotsche fought for ten years against the bureaucrats in Madison who disliked the idea of having another 4-year public doctoral-granting University in the state.

Without Klotsche, UWM never comes into existence. His prowess in politics and good guy demeanor finally crumbled the UW established order in Madison. They buckled, and the school that we know and love became reality.

In 1956, the school was rechristened the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and would become the epicenter of education in the city of Milwaukee and southeast Wisconsin.

Klotsche’s fight was not over, never over. His attempts to put UWM on the map as a top-flight school were always met with obstruction by the Badger faithful in the capitol. Indeed, the University in Madison has gained many things that were first requested by J. Martin Klotsche at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

You’ll never read it in a book, or in a newspaper, but UW never wanted UWM. It was never explicit in any form of record, but the people in Madison were very frightened that the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee would become to them what Michigan State was to Michigan. And a monopoly on higher education they would not give up easily.

Near his retirement, Klotsche finally won one of the biggest victories in his tenure as Chancellor, and that was to secure the future of the athletic facility on campus that now bears his name. When the Klotsche Center opened in 1977, it was state-of-the-art, better than any other collegiate facility in the state.

Where the name Klotsche Krazies comes from is a bit tougher to track, but we know certain facts.

In the early 1970’s, the university was facing an extreme budget problem. They had a lack of funds that had the school facing massive cuts. As is often the case, the two main targets for these budget cuts were athletics and the arts, the former seen as mostly an extravagance and the latter a useless academic pursuit since its graduates often faced financial burden without a set career.

Chancellor Klotsche fought for the continued existence of athletics and arts on campus, because both are mandatory for a flourishing major campus culture. One prominent member of the opposition, either a student or faculty member it is not clear, called Klotsche “crazy” if he believed the athletics program could be successful.

Not to be outdone, the student fans attended the next basketball game against Illinois at Chicago-Circle (now rival UIC) prepared to make a statement. One fan held up a sign at the game that read, “We Believe. We’re Klotsche Crazy.”

The group was born. The group of students, unorganized but united, began attending games as “Klotsche’s Crazies” at old Baker Fieldhouse, on the spot of what now is Lubar Hall.

The 70’s would see changes in the university’s athletics. Football was cut in 1974, despite finally turning the corner and becoming a successful program at the beginning of the decade. The entire program dropped out of NCAA Division I at the end of the decade, powered by a scandal involving basketball coach Bob Gottlieb (whose son you might recognize as CBS analyst Doug Gottlieb). But after all the losses, after all the turmoil, that sense of unity lived on.

Klotsche’s Crazies survived the budget cut proposal. Athletics and the arts survived. The Crazies continued to attend games in Baker Fieldhouse, and in 1977 the brand new Klotsche Center. Now the Crazies were rewarded for years of supporting their leader, the man who made UWM a reality and fought and clawed to make that school the best institution he could with the limited resources they got from Madison.

Klotsche’s Crazies in the Klotsche Center became the Klotsche Krazies, and a decade out of Division I all but killed off any semblance of a fan base. When Bud Haidet arrived on campus in 1988, he could count on one hand the amount of fans at his first basketball game that were just there to watch the game.

Klotsche retired before the arena that bears his name was open. He published his memoirs, Confessions of an Educator, in 1985, and passed away in 1995 at age 87 in his home in Oostburg.

While our games have been moved many times since the Krazies were born: first in Baker Fieldhouse, then the Klotsche Center, then to the MECCA, back to the Klotsche Center, and once again to the MECCA under the new name U.S. Cellular Arena (now Panther Arena).

But the student section isn’t named after a building. Buildings come and go, but the man and his legacy will live on forever, in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and its community.

We are the Klotsche Krazies.

The student section’s name wasn’t born out of alliteration and copying the Cameron Crazies. It has a history of its own, based entirely out of the fact that people in academics saw athletics as expendable and tried to end it to save a buck. The man who believed in UWM before it even was UWM didn’t see it that way, and he fought to keep the program alive. This university is better off with an athletics program.

If the university is going to go with another name for the student section, so be it. I’m sure I’ll be one of the few who actually would be sad to see the Klotsche Krazies go. And maybe it should; after all, if it gets students truly engaged and they feel like it’s “their section,” and it gets more of them to stick around, then go for it.

I just don’t like the loss of tradition. UWM has very little tradition to speak of, and fewer still focused around athletics. I guess I’d like to see students educated more as to why the name is the Klotsche Krazies rather than have them come up with another generic name that’ll be forgotten tomorrow. Remember the Panther Pack? The AD tried to get that rolling in 2008, complete with a rewards program for students to get free stuff. The rewards program was much more popular than the name. I mean, panthers don’t even run in packs.

I’ll play along though and give a name up. Call them the Black Parade, named after the My Chemical Romance album. The titular song, Welcome to the Black Parade, is fairly well known in this generation and used to be part of my playlist to psych me up. It lays claim to the color black, as we are the only D-I school in the state that has it as a school color. The band wore uniforms on the album cover (and in the music video) reminiscent of a Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band gone goth.

In the end, we’ll see how it goes. I’d hope some students would cite this post as a reason to keep the Klotsche Krazies name and put forth the name. We’ll see. Whatever we can do to keep moving onward and upward.

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