This October, UW-Madison heads toward its 105th Homecoming celebration — a century plus of football festivities. You’d think in all these years, the Badgers would have played every conference team, but they haven’t: Penn State, Nebraska, and Rutgers have never been in Madison at Homecoming. And the UW has never beaten Michigan in a Homecoming game — and has seldom played the Wolverines. In fact, the UW has played only two Homecoming games against Michigan (and already has one against Big Ten newcomer Maryland).
Over the years, the Badgers have built up a record of 55-44-5 in Homecoming contests. They’ve played this year’s opponent, Purdue, 14 times, and are currently even with the Boilermakers: 6-6-2. As you prepare to celebrate Homecoming, here are the top ten games to remember.
1911: (UW ties Minnesota 6-6) First Homecoming celebration. To mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Wisconsin Alumni Association, Homecoming becomes an event for alumni, with activities beyond the game.
1917: (UW beats Minnesota 10-7) First Law School cane toss. Third-year law students take the field at halftime in the Homecoming game and toss canes over the goal post. Those who catch their canes, so says superstition, will win their first case.
1919: (UW loses to Minnesota, 19-7) First Homecoming Ball. For many years, this dance was second only to junior prom for its importance to the campus social calendar.
1920: (UW beats Illinois 14-9) First Homecoming Hobo Parade. Billing themselves as “the largest convention of hobos ever held in Madison,” students dressed as homeless migrants and marched on campus. The tradition lasted until around 1930.
1946: (UW loses to Iowa, 21-7) Last Homecoming bonfire. Begun in 1912, the bonfire was a culmination of a torchlight parade down State Street. The bonfires were canceled during World War II, and revived in 1945. Postwar high spirits led to rambunctious crowds, and rambunctiousness plus fire equal a bad idea. The ’46 fire caused a near riot, and the event was discontinued.
1948: (UW loses to Northwestern, 16-7) Students attempt to replace a live badger mascot with a live raccoon named Regdab. It didn’t catch on.
1949: (UW beats Iowa, 35-13) Bucky Badger is unveiled. With a name chosen through a student vote, the mascot came to life, with Bill Sagal ’51 donning the costume.
1982: (UW beats Toledo, 36-27) Last non-conference opponent. For a three-year stretch in the early 1980s, the UW experimented with making Homecoming a September phenomenon, when the Badgers could drum up interest in non-Big Ten (i.e., winnable) games. In consecutive years, the Badgers beat San Diego State, Western Michigan, and Toledo. Add in a 1930 Homecoming victory over Penn, and the UW is 4-0 in non-conference Homecoming games.
2005: (UW beats Purdue 31-20) Most recent Purdue Homecoming. The last time the Badgers played Purdue in a Homecoming game was in Barry Alvarez’s final season as head coach. Alvarez’s record against Purdue was 7-5-1.
2012: (UW loses to Michigan State, 16-13, in overtime) This is the last time that the UW lost a Homecoming game, though the team went on to represent the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl. In the last two years, the Badgers have beaten Northwestern and Maryland.