Badger Days 2008 got underway around 1:30 p.m. on Thursday when our bus pulled out of the Camp Randall Stadium parking lot and headed for Eau Claire. You can learn a lot when you spend nine hours (including six on a bus) with people.
So, here are 10 things I learned on our Badger Days trip to Eau Claire on Thursday …
1. Fans don’t forget their own. The trip was a “homecoming” of sorts for three Badger head coaches: men’s hockey coach Mike Eaves, women’s basketball coach Lisa Stone and women’s golf coach Todd Oehrlein. All three coached at UW-Eau Claire at one point in their careers and all were warmly welcomed by the locals under the tent at Carson Park.
2. The Badger Days raffle prizes are legit. The coaches on the trip randomly selected raffle winners toward the end of the event. Among the prizes? Two tickets to this fall’s home football night game against either Ohio State or Penn State (think the atmosphere will have some electricity that night)? Another prize: two tickets to a men’s basketball game of the winner’s choice during the 2008-09 season. That won’t be an easy choice.
3. I’m thinking about hiring Lisa Stone and men’s soccer coach Jeff Rohrman on a freelance basis. We handed Lisa and Jeff (pictured above) a microphone and had them interview a number of fans at the event. Great stuff. Fun for them to be on the “other side” of an interview. You can check it out on the video section of our Badger Days portal page here at UWBADGERS.COM.
4. We have great fans in Eau Claire. Attendance has increased each of the three years we’ve taken the Badger Days tour to Eau Claire and this year’s total of 803 fans was a record for this site. Thanks, Eau Claire. We appreciate your support!
5. We won’t leave till all the coaches are on the bus. Coach Eaves, attending to his always-busy schedule, was the last one on the bus as we loaded in front of Camp Randall Stadium. There was talk of fining him or making him sing, but he served his “punishment” by grabbing the mic telling some really good jokes on the bus on the way home.
6. It’s nice talking to our coaches and fellow staff members outside of the office. It’s amazing how non-stop jobs in athletics can be, but a three-hour bus ride gives us all a chance to visit. Nothing like talking Stanley Cup Playoffs with Mark Johnson or football with Bret Bielema. Or not talking about sports at all with volleyball coach Pete Waite.
7. Moonlight Graham was a real person. It’s true. I was talking with one of the Eau Claire TV reporters (Bob Bradovich of WQOW). Bob is from Chisholm, Minn., which fans of the movie “Field of Dreams” will remember was the hometown of Archibald “Moonlight” Graham (the film’s baseball-player-turned-doctor). I’ve see that movie about, oh, 157 times and always thought it was fictitious from start to finish. According to Bradovich, however, Graham lived not far from Bradovich’s family. Graham also, as documented in the film, really played a half-inning for John McGraw’s New York Giants and really was a physician back in Chisholm. (Additional sidenote, courtesy of UW Associate A.D. Vince Sweeney: Graham was the family physician of former UW athletics administrator and current University of Minnesota A.D. Joel Maturi).
8. Head basketball coach Bo Ryan’s book will soon be out. Mike Lucas, longtime media personality in Madison, is writing a biography about Ryan.
9. Coach Bielema likes cream in his coffee. For real. Just ask Maggie McCann. She’s the UW Marketing Department student intern who had to hold (and re-fill) Bret’s coffee when he needed free hands to sign autographs. I thanked her. Normally I have to do it.
10. Badger Days doesn’t just happen. UW Director of Marketing Kevin Kluender and his staff arrived in Eau Claire hours before the event actually started at 5 p.m. They had everything set up and ready to go and the event came off without a hitch. Nice job.
11. A bonus item. Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez has good stuff. He said he shook off a screwball before delivering the ceremonial first pitch at the Eau Claire Express baseball game Thursday evening before we headed home.
Look for another edition of the Badger Days Blog from Milwaukee next Tuesday morning.