Badgers fans on airplane headed to Miami.

The Sweet Taste of Victory

On December 28, 2017, the Wisconsin Alumni Association (WAA) welcomed almost 500 alumni and friends to a travel experience of a lifetime: traveling to beautiful Miami to cheer on their beloved Badgers in the team’s first appearance in the storied Orange Bowl against the hometown powerhouse, the Miami Hurricanes.

As the WAA staff arrived at the Madison airport at 5 a.m. to prepare to greet our travelers, the thermometer read a whopping two degrees, with subzero wind chills. However, that didn’t keep numerous Badgers from arriving in their favorite shorts and warm-weather Badger apparel. I would argue that they were merely savvy football fans playing mind games with the Miami fans, similar to how football players warm up during the pregame in subzero temps to psych out their opponents on the other sideline.

As we boarded our chartered flights to Miami, we could see our breath in the air as we walked down the jetway. I think our travelers had a little extra motivation at that moment to get to the warmth of the Sunshine State. Miami, look out!

As we landed at the Fort Lauderdale airport, the sight of palm trees mixed with the warmth of the Florida sun elevated the excitement level of the Official Badger Bowl Tour. Not only were we about to compete in a prominent, New Year’s Six bowl game, but our travelers were also about to enjoy a much-deserved break from a recently bitter Wisconsin winter.

As we boarded our buses to head to Miami, the Doral Police Department provided a motorcade escort out of the airport, which made our exclusive travel experience feel even more special. During the first night in Miami, we hosted a welcome reception at the Hard Rock Café on Biscayne Boulevard. The night was full of Badger pride; lots of food; karaoke (thanks, Jeff Wendorf); and alumni camaraderie.

On Friday, some travelers enjoyed tours of the Everglades while others explored the Art Deco culture in Miami. Later in the afternoon, Badgers invaded South Beach for the Wisconsin pep rally at Lummus Park on Ocean Drive. The UW Marching Band, the Spirit Squad, and Bucky Badger provided Badger fans with an exceptional performance and reminded the locals that Wisconsin was in the house. One local man commented, “I’ve never seen this many opposing fans down here. And they’re so into it. Our boys had better be ready to play tomorrow.”

On Game Day, Wisconsin alumni and friends gathered at the sold-out BADGER HUDDLE®, located right outside the Hard Rock Stadium. Guests enjoyed a live band, yard games, face painting, Wisconsin fare, and another exclusive performance by the UW Marching Band and the Spirit Squad. Coincidentally, the temperature dropped Saturday night, and the Miami locals said we must have brought our Wisconsin weather with us. (Mind you, it was still in the high 50s and low 60s throughout the night, so I found that hilarious because I can’t imagine them attending a game at Camp Randall in late December.)

The Orange Bowl was indeed one to remember. The Badgers started slowly, which has been typical for this team, but we could tell there was no panic in our boys or the coaching staff. The Badger faithful were outnumbered in the Hurricanes’ home stadium, but that didn’t keep us from being loud and proud throughout the entire game. In the end, the Badgers pulled out an impressive 34–24 victory over the Hurricanes, earning our team a historic 13th win and its first Orange Bowl championship.

On behalf of the Wisconsin Alumni Association, I thank everyone who attended the Official Badger Bowl Tour. It was an honor traveling with you all, and we look forward to seeing your smiling faces on the next tour. On, Wisconsin!