If You Want to Be a Badger

An Alum

What’s the story behind “If You Want to Be a Badger”?

Abe

In light of a month bookended by full moons, we thought we’d delve into the history of this Game Day tune that, if it’s not already, will surely be ringing in your head for the rest of the day. If you’ve ever been one of the thousands cheering in the stands at a Badger sporting event, odds are you’ve sung this song and waved your arms along with its signature motions. We’re still tracking down the choreographer, but as for the song itself, you can thank Scandinavian studies professor Julian Olson 1884. In 1919, Olson wrote the lyrics to what he called “The Badger Ballad” for upperclassmen to sing to the incoming freshman class at that year’s Varsity Welcome, or what we know today as Convocation — because nothing says “welcome to campus” like being serenaded by thousands of your new fellow Badgers. The twist: Olson’s original lyrics never once mentioned the moon ; rather, the source of the “bright shining light” by which baby Badgers were to find their way was the “hallowed home” of the Roman goddess Minerva (though we’re fairly certain she dwells far off campus). Olson’s lyrics were set to music written by Charles Mills, the School of Music’s director at the time. Since this track “dropped,” as the kids say, in 1919, it’s garnered a few new verses, some choice profanity courtesy of the student section, and arm movements that undoubtedly have caused some hand-to-face collision in the close confines of stadium seating — but that’s never stopped the UW band from leading fans in this spirited melody.