7:17 p.m. EST: ESPN IN THE HOUSE
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A weekly ritual during the fall is the meetings we hold with our coaches/players and the on-air talent from whichever television network is carrying our game. The way we usually do it for home games is offensive coordinator Paul Chryst goes from 12:30-1, followed by defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz from 1-1:30 and head coach Bret Bielema from 1:30-2. These meetings, which take place in our football office, allow the talent to prepare for the broadcast by talking with the coaches about our team. They’ll go through the depth chart and try to get a general sense for the state of the team. It’s necessary because they don’t often follow us on a weekly basis. Usually the talent flies in to Madison on Thursday evening, spends Friday educating themselves about our team and then Saturday is gameday.
Bowl games are no different. ESPN’s crew for the Outback Bowl (Sean McDonough, Chris Spielman and Rob Stone) met with our coaches, as well as LB Jonathan Casillas, QB Tyler Donovan and TE Travis Beckum this afternoon. Sean, Chris and Rob did a few of our games last season, but haven’t done any this year. Plus, they were just in San Francisco two nights ago doing the Emerald Bowl. So, it’s important for them to have a chance to reacquaint themselves with our people.
Spielman, of course, was an All-America linebacker at Ohio State and went on to a fine NFL career. McDonough is a longtime play-by-play man who has done a variety of sports. Stone, who was born here in Tampa, is the sideline reporter. The meetings are interesting to sit in on and I’ve always found them educational on a variety of fronts.
Well, 48 hours from now we’ll know who won the 2008 Outback Bowl. We’ve got a few more things to do tomorrow, including a 9 a.m. news conference for Coach Bielema, as well as the team’s walk-through and visit to Raymond James Stadium in the afternoon. Have a nice evening.
10:28 a.m. EST: AND THE WINNER IS …
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Back in late November, when we were about to get official word about the Outback Bowl invitation, I was driving to work when my cell phone rang. It was Coach Bielema. He was calling to ask me what I thought of an idea he had. He wanted to buy someone and their guest two game tickets, flights and a few nights stay in Tampa for the bowl game. I thought it was a great idea.
Well, this morning it all came together when Lisa Wickersheim of Appleton stopped by our hotel to have breakfast with the team and Coach (pictured above, Lisa is in the middle). Lisa found out she won the trip when Bret left a message on her phone (she said she still has the message). Thinking it was a hoax, she called his cell back only to find out it was the real deal. She and her friend joined the UW Alumni tour and arrived in Tampa on Saturday.
She said she’s been going to UW football games for about five years. I asked her about having breakfast with Bret and the team. “It was a lot of fun because Coach seems so down to Earth,” she said.
The Appleton Post-Crescent ran a good story on Lisa in the Dec. 29 edition. Check it out.
7:29 a.m. EST: IT TAKES A VILLAGE
I wanted to take a minute to revisit something that Rudy, associated AD John Chadima and football operations director Bill Nayes did Saturday morning. The four of us attended the obligatory pre-game meeting over at Raymond James Stadium. It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s an incredibly important get-together involving every aspect of the gameday operation you can think of.
We have these same meetings every Wednesday morning prior to our home games at Camp Randall during the fall. Just what we all need, right? Another meeting. But as I said, they’re very important. Ours are run by assistant AD Todd Nelson, who has a remarkable attention to detail. I think everyone who touches a Badger home football game is in the room from athletic communications (me) to maintenance, parking and transportation, spirit squad, marketing, UW Police, football operations, video services, Badger Sports Properties and on and on. There are even representatives of the UW student population and the neighborhood just to the west of the stadium.
No stone is left unturned. Todd’s agendas are very detailed and the meetings rarely last less than an hour. But when they are over with we all know exactly what time kickoff is; what giveaway items may be handed out at the stadium; any potential traffic issues; where the visiting team will park its buses; which UW athletic teams need access to the stadium or McClain Center; and what is going on at halftime. The whole day is scripted minute by minute. It’s no accident that the National Anthem is sung when it is sung or that Coach Bielema leads the team onto the field at a particular time.
It’s interesting to see the many different elements that need to come together to make a successful football gameday, whether here at the Outback Bowl or back home at Camp Randall. There are some cool things planned for this Tuesday here in Tampa, so if you can’t be here I hope you’ll be able to catch it on TV (ESPN at 11 a.m. EST).