Skip Navigation

Remember the Broncos!

No, seriously — do you remember them? They’ve played the UW four times.

John Allen
December 09, 2016

When pulling together a list of the Badgers’ arch rivals, some names jump quickly to mind:

  • Minnesota? Sure: it’s the most-often played rivalry in major college football, 126 years and counting.
  • Michigan? Sure, it’s an easy target.
  • Who doesn’t hate Ohio State?
  • USC? A bowl-game nemesis that the Badgers couldn’t vanquish until last year.

Western Michigan is, historically speaking, far down the list of the UW’s enemies. As you prepare for the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, here’s what you need to know about the Broncos.

  • The UW isn’t completely unfamiliar with Western Michigan (WMU). The Badgers have played this team four times before. That’s the same number of times that the Badgers have played Maryland and Rutgers (two Big Ten opponents) combined. The UW’s record against WMU is 3–1; the Badgers beat the Broncos in 1963, 1981, and 2000; they lost in 1988.
  • Yes, Broncos: a horse is the Western Michigan mascot. But it wasn’t always. Until 1939, the team was called the Hilltoppers. Then it joined a conference with Western Kentucky (a.k.a. the Hilltoppers) and Marquette (then also called the Hilltoppers, though they’ve famously been called many other things since). To avoid confusion, the polite Western Michigan crew became Broncos.
  • WMU plays its home football games at Waldo Stadium. Where’s Waldo Stadium? In Kalamazoo. It was named for Dwight Waldo, the university’s first president, and the Hilltopping Broncos moved there in 1939.
  • When it was first founded, WMU was known as Western State Normal School, meaning it was a teachers’ college. Today it’s known for its aviation program and International Congress on Medieval Studies. Presumably, the medievalists burn the aviators as witches, and a good time is had by all.
  • In 1988, when the UW suffered its sole loss to the Broncos, the Badgers were having a very bad year. The team went 1–10 in Don Morton’s second (and penultimate) season as head coach. Playing second-string tight end that year was Paul Chryst ’88 — a name you may have heard, as he’s now the Badgers’ head coach.
The 1988 Badger football team — the only one to have suffered a loss to Western Michigan. If you look closely, you’ll see Paul Chryst (wearing number 9) in the fifth row back, all the way to the right. Courtesy of UW–Madison Archives, S01022.
The 1988 Badger football team — the only one to have suffered a loss to Western Michigan. If you look closely, you’ll see Paul Chryst (wearing number 9) in the fifth row back, all the way to the right. Courtesy of UW–Madison Archives, S01022.

Related News and Stories

<
>