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Tracy B. ’87

You’re right: this wasn’t around when you attended UW–Madison. As traditions go, “throwing the W” isn’t terribly old. It dates back fewer than 10 years, to the 2009 Champs Sports Bowl, when the Badgers played the Miami Hurricanes. Then-coach Bret Bielema claims credit for inventing the W hand sign, having taken inspiration from a similar hand sign that Hurricane players made: touching thumbs with index fingers extended to make a U in honor of the University of Miami. Bielema says he suggested turning the U into a W, and the new gesture was reinforced by victory. “When we won that game,” he told On Wisconsin magazine editor Niki Denison, “the kids flashed the W all over the place.” Since then, the popularity of “throwing the W” has only grown. It is, after all, perhaps the kindest gesture that students regularly make with their fingers.

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