Most UW-Madison alumni have at least one red-and-white T-shirt tucked away in a drawer, ready to wear on a football Saturday or during NCAA tournament time. But over the past century and a half, there is likely only one Badger grad who has worn his school spirit on his sleeve every single day for an entire year.
Last Spring, UW alumnus and WAA member Rob Vitense ’99 says he needed a mood boost, so he pulled on a Wisconsin shirt and instantly felt better. He dug out a different Badger T the next day to keep the smile on his face, and the Badger Shirt Streak was born. On Monday, April 9, he passed the 366-day mark ... one full year and even taking into account that leap day in February.
“Wisconsin is a good school – that’s the first thing I’ll say to anyone,” Vitense explains.
Vitense, a stay-at-home dad who also coaches baseball, updates the world on what could be a record-setting streak on Twitter using the handle @BadgerCubinMN. His shirt collection includes the fourth edition of The Red Shirt, of course — he says he’s only just caught on to the Red Shirt craze, but is eager to see the new fifth-edition design.
Vitense isn’t the only Badger in his family. He grew up near Madison, and his grandmother, Rosemary Temple, worked for UW Housing for a number of years. His wife, Holly MS’00, PhD’02, is a fellow UW alum, though Vitense admits that as an Ohio native, she tends to cheer for the Buckeyes.
The Vitense family moved to Minnesota more than a decade ago, but no worries — Vitense’s Badger pride remains strong, despite living deep in Gopher territory.
“People get that I grew up there and am proud of my school, so they understand my loyalty and commitment,” he says. “And there are other Badgers here who get it.”
Still, he says the Badger Shirt Streak isn’t a 24-7 time commitment.
“It’s kind of like a job. I might wear a Badger shirt until practice or a game, then change into my baseball jersey.
“Or,” he adds, “I wore a Badger tie with a suit at a wedding last fall on the same day as the Wisconsin vs. Illinois football game.”
Vitense’s devotion is already inspiring future members of the UW Class of 2022. He says he’d never make his kids wear Badger clothes, but his eight-year-old son, Zane, loves to follow in his footsteps and started his own red streak in March, when he spent at least a week wearing all of his favorite Wisconsin shirts and shorts.
“I try not to push them, since we live in Minnesota,” Vitense says. “But it’s hard for them not to follow the path and see what a good thing it is, when I’m so passionate about my school and the sports programs, and am proud of Wisconsin.”
In Memory of a Fallen Badger
One Badger shirt in Vitense’s collection is one-of-a-kind and has very special meaning to him.
His grandfather, Ellsworth “Roy” Temple, grew up in Lancaster, Wisconsin, and played football with a young man who went on to play end for Wisconsin. Two-time all-American Dave Schreiner ’42 was selected Most Valuable Player in the Western Conference in 1942 and was drafted by the Detroit Lions after graduation.
But he — along with many of his fellow UW classmates — enlisted in the military. He was killed in Okinawa in 1945 at the age of 24. His jersey number (80) was retired at Camp Randall Stadium in a 2006 ceremony.
Vitense was touched by the story and by his family’s connection to it. Shortly after reading a book about Schreiner — his grandfather is mentioned in the first chapter — Vitense met fellow Badger Hank Derleth ’61, who played football in the 1950s and now owns uniform manufacturer Ripon Athletic. They got to talking about the book, and Derleth agreed to custom-make a Schreiner jersey for Vitense.