PantherU

Badgers true school color is yellow, not cardinal

 

Sports are popular for many reasons, especially spectator sports. They’re entertaining, they’re engaging, and they allow us to get that rush from the days of Roman gladiators without having to straight up watch people die gruesomely to find out who wins. One of the great things about sports are that they’re challenging – it’s you versus me and we’re going to see who is up to the task of winning the big game.

So when I saw recently that the UW Badgers would no longer play Milwaukee or Green Bay on the road, I couldn’t help but think of Joaquin Phoenix sticking a knife in Russell Crowe so he could gain a huge advantage before they fought in Gladiator.

The Badgers are weak, scared cowards. Following their just defeat last December, Bucky Badger would rather take his ball and go home. He’d also like to stay there. He’s never going to come out from behind his fox hole because he’s a wimp trying to masquerade as one of the big boys.

This is an era where many of the high-major ‘haves’ are trying to figure out how to use their advantage in any way they can. The Badgers are starting to follow in the footsteps of others by ending long-standing series with in-state programs or, in this case, refusing to play on the road against them. Green Bay will be playing the Badgers in Madison this year. Milwaukee won’t.

Here’s to hoping we never go back – not to continue a ridiculously one-sided series that is only attempting to tip the scales further.

College basketball is not a sport that evenly distributes victories and losses at home. Sports bettors routinely give the home court advantage more weight in college basketball than they do in any other sport, due to the major impact home crowds have on the game itself. Student sections strongly impact the game, as if any Panthers really needed to be told that (Bill Johnson was so terrible on that call, thanks Amanda).

The Badgers are just following others, right? They are only doing this because it’s the trend in high-major hoops scheduling. Well, not for everyone.

Take Tony Bennett, for example. The Virginia head coach is bucking the trend, choosing to play in-state VCU every year, home-and-home. They split the original 2013-14 series and have renewed it for 2017-18, again a home-and-home. Why? Because Tony Bennett knows the importance of playing those in-state games. He knows that the UVA-VCU series engenders good will and excitement for both fan bases. He also knows he is providing his team a difficult game against a motivated opponent, so he’s willing to stick his head in the lion’s mouth to challenge his guys.

We’ll use NFL fandom as a metaphor here. Tony Bennett is like the Packers fan who is disappointed that Teddy Bridgewater’s injury takes away meaning from beating the Vikings for the division title. Greg Gard is the Packers fan who snickers and takes joy in Bridgewater’s ACL tear because now the Packers have an easy road to the division title.

There’s definitely a financial advantage for the Badgers in making this move. Without playing that game at Milwaukee, the Badgers can play that game at home instead – and collect all the money from the sale of concessions, merchandise, parking and individual ticket sales. Of course, that home game would be against a low-major like Poughkeepsie State, and that game’s not going to sell many individual tickets – not as much as a game against a high-major or a mid-major with some stakes (perhaps instrastate).

Of course, that’s not what Gard is pitching. Gard said in the Wisconsin State Journal article, “That gives us more flexibility to do some of those other marquee events and games that have been brought to our attention over the last couple years.”

Perhaps Bucky is going to be playing in some crazy tournaments they’ve been unable to play in because of that pesky intrastate game with the Panthers. The Panthers played in Madison on December 9th last season. What are they doing this year around then?

Well, December 10th they’re playing Marquette. But they played that game last season. Maybe the Panthers are being replaced by some cool early season tournament? Maybe it’s a new game with some Big 12 team or *gasp* maybe it’s DUKE!

Nope. Idaho State. Have fun playing the…Tigers? I thought it was Vandals but apparently that’s Idaho. Idaho State is…the Bengals. Got it. That’s why the logo was a tiger.

Sweet. Enjoy the “flexibility” you get for those other “marquee games,” coach Gard. I’m sure you’ll sell every single individual ticket for that game against the Idaho State Bengals, the team who will be celebrating the 30th anniversary of its last Big Sky Championship this season.

Could coach LaVall Jordan sign off on playing every year in Madison? Sure. Playing at Madison has some advantages: it’s certainly a challenge to our players, the atmosphere is usually decent, the game is usually on some form of television or streaming service.

But let’s not kid ourselves, that would be a mistake. I’m about to deputize Amanda Braun for this argument.

We need to recognize our own value. We are not an also-ran. In the pecking order of college basketball’s 350-plus programs, we’re squarely right in front of the middle, between 75 and 175 in the RPI most years.

Braun fired Rob Jeter after a 20-win season with three postseason invitations just two years removed from the school’s fourth-ever NCAA Tournament appearance and conference tournament championship, and the first season after that championship in which they were eligible due to a 2015 postseason ban that the NCAA blamed on administrative malpractice and not the coaching staff or team.

This was done, by Braun’s account, because the program needed to be better.

If Bucky Badger calls and tries to get an all-Kohl Center series, hang up the phone. If they approach to try and renew the 7-for-2 or 4-for-1 series, shut the door in their face. This program is worth more than that.

You want this program to grow? Don’t accept that garbage. Don’t play a slew of buy games, even if it helps you pay two coaching staffs. And under no circumstances, don’t take a dime from Bucky Badger to satiate the thirst he’ll eventually have for pay-for-play.

Take two-for-one series with high-majors like Cincinnati and Missouri, schools that we almost had that with in the past. Play home-and-home series with schools like UNI.

But take a hard line with Bucky Badger. If they ever want to play again, it’s home-and-home or piss off. Greg Gard doesn’t get to dictate what our schedule is. That nonchalant quote he gave in the article, “There may be years when they both appear on the schedule, there may be years — based on how dates align and scheduling needs — it may be one or the other,” was a joke. Milwaukee doesn’t exist to fill your schedule. Milwaukee exists for itself, and you can take a seat and wait your turn if you want to play us again.

“I know the importance of playing the schools in the state and will continue to make an attempt to do that,” Gard told the State Journal. Sure, Greg. I’m sure you’ll make the hard sell, that our fans at Milwaukee are interested in the continuation of the series. I’m sure plenty of the hedge-bettors are.

However, this is not in Milwaukee’s best interest. Gard is looking out for his program by playing the coward and shutting the door on future games at Milwaukee.

That’s fine. We’ll find teams that aren’t afraid to play in our building.

The closest I’d come to even signing a 2-for-1 is a home-home-neutral series, where year one is played in Milwaukee, year two is played in Madison, then year three returns for a neutral site game at the new Bucks arena, with both teams splitting the profits down the middle. We can even make sure the games in Milwaukee happen when Marquette is in Madison so they get three straight years playing in a city with a great many Badger alumni.

If that sounds too even to you, like Milwaukee is getting too much in the deal, then you’re part of the problem.

You need to value your program, especially after this bloody, angry feud in which a lot of people lost their jobs, relationships were destroyed and careers were ruined. If you wanted to go through all of this crap and then say “sure, let’s play Bucky’s lap dog and play there every year,” then you don’t know anything and your displeasure with Jeter’s program was unwarranted.

But if you truly believe Jeter’s staff didn’t succeed, and you want this program to strive for more, then you have to be willing to throw up a big middle-finger to Bucky Badger. Because by refusing to ever play at Panther Arena again, he’s doing the same to you.

Good luck against the mighty Bengals of Idaho State, cowards.

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