In the 1988 football season opener, Wisconsin lost to Western Michigan, 24-14, in front of 38,230 fans. The Badgers' few first downs were greeted by cynical chants of "Rose Bowl! Rose Bowl!" from the student section, whose occupants were much more interested in choreography during the Fifth Quarter than the game itself. "Who gives a shit? We came to see the band!" was another popular chant.
As a freshman that year, I was hooked and went to every single home game. But instead of renewing season tickets for the 1989 season, my friends and I entered the stadium for home games through an unlocked door, sometimes as uninterested security guards looked on. We mocked our peers at schools like Michigan and Ohio State where football was taken too seriously, wondering how they could fret over close losses to top-10 teams.
Twenty-four years, five Rose Bowl appearances and a couple stadium renovations later, Wisconsin is most definitely one of those schools. I thought that was obvious until I started hearing people use terms like "harsh," "severe" and "knee-jerk" to describe head coach Bret Bielema's firing of offensive line coach Mike Markuson earlier this week.
This is the world of big-time college sports, Badger fans. Two lackluster games straight, which is what the Wisconsin offensive line has played, is cause for not just concern, but actual panic. Wisconsin's entire identity is built on having a powerful rushing attack, and if the Badgers can't run the ball against a middling Pac-12 school like Oregon State, how will it fare against Michigan State?
More to the point, how will opposing coaches change their defensive strategies if they no longer feel the need to respect Wisconsin's line?