“Varsity,” written well over one hundred years ago by UW-Madison music instructor Henry Dyke Sleeper, is a shortened form of its original name “Toast to Wisconsin” or “Varsity Toast.”
This time-honored tune went for many years without its famed wave. That is, until 1934 when band director Ray Dvorak brought the idea to UW students and fans alike. At one time, Dvorak was the assistant band director for Illinois, and at a game against the University of Pennsylvania, he saw the fans waving their hats after the singing of their school song.
Apparently Dvorak first released the wave idea in Wisconsin after a speech given by then-UW president Glenn Frank. When “Varsity” was played and at the end, Dvorak told the students to wave their hats.
It seems that today, UW fans have dropped the hat idea whenever “Varsity” is played, but the famous wave has still carried on.