The UW played its first football game against the Iowa Hawkeyes in 1894, one of the longest-running rivalries in college football. The winner of each year’s game is awarded the Heartland Trophy, a sort of bovine version of Paul Bunyan’s Axe. But in nearly 130 years of games, the Badgers have met Iowa in Homecoming games only 13 times. The last time the two played in the UW’s Homecoming game was 2009; prior to that, it was 1997. Still, the Badger’s Homecoming history with the Hawkeyes has some notable highlights.
The Badgers faced Iowa for the first time on Homecoming on November 15, 1924. It must have seemed like a safe choice, as the UW was then 6–0 against the Hawkeyes. But Iowa won 21–7.
Photo: UW Archives, S06246
Immediately after World War II, the UW played Iowa in three Homecoming games in a four-year stretch. The arrival of veterans on the GI Bill made Homecomings rowdy events — in 1946, the traditional bonfire turned into a riot, and bonfires were soon banned. The UW lost 21–7.
Photo: UW Archives, S03601
In 1949, a Homecoming game against Iowa featured a new star: Bucky Badger. The mascot was a hit and has been a campus fixture for the last 72 years. The UW won 35–13.
Photo: UW Archives, S00576
After a 19-year break — the longest gap between Badger-Hawkeye Homecoming games — the UW and Iowa met in 1972. Long-time band director Ray Dvorak (who held that job from 1934 to 1968) came out of retirement to conduct the UW Marching Band, taking over from some uppity newbie named Mike Leckrone. The UW won 16–14.
Photo: UW Archives, Del Desens
In the 1970s, the Bucky Wagon — a 1932 fire engine with almost no safety features — joined Homecoming traditions. It’s shown here storming the field for the 1979 contest. Iowa won that one 24–13.
Photo: UW Archives, S03589
The UW-Iowa game began in 1894 and continued for 110 years without a cute name to give it identity. However, in 2004, someone decided that, to inject emotion, the rivalry needed a trophy: to be specific, the Heartland Trophy. If you think that sounds like bull, it also looks like bull. Prior to 2021, the only UW Homecoming game that decided the Heartland Trophy’s fate was in 2009. Iowa won 20–10. Who will win it this year, in the second Homecoming Heartland Classic?