Being a Wisconsin Badger fan is great. The Badgers are constantly relevant and near the top of the Big Ten in both basketball and football every single year. It is hard to make the argument against them being the best basketball-football combination school in the country.
Wisconsin has now played in a bowl game and the NCAA Tourney for 15 consecutive years. Next closest active streak is 4. (Ht /u/AtomicFreeze)
— RedditCFB (@RedditCFB) March 12, 2017
Their consistency is remarkable, and every stat backs that up. But that sort of success comes at a price. And the price for always being in the conversation, for always having big games, is a whole boat load of pain. More pain than probably any other fanbase in the country.
In the last six seasons, Wisconsin Football has only lost 23 games. That is remarkable consistency, as only College Football’s biggest blue bloods have less losses. But what is even more remarkable is the fact that 19 out of those 23 losses have been by only one possession.
In 2010, Wisconsin only suffered two losses. One was a 10-point loss to Michigan State. The other? A nail-biting loss to TCU in the Rose Bowl because of a failed two-point conversion.
In 2011, the Badgers lost three times. The first was on a Hail Mary as time expired against Michigan State. The second was the result of a 40-yard go-ahead touchdown pass with 30 seconds left from Ohio State’s Braxton Miller. The third was yet another heartbreaking Rose Bowl loss, as the clock expired during Russell Wilson’s spike attempt.
Somehow, 2012 wasn’t any less painful. Wisconsin finished a mediocre 8-6, but all six of Wisconsin’s losses were by seven-points or less. Three of them were in overtime. The season ended with a third consecutive Rose Bowl loss, this time by just six points.
The next year, Gary Andersen took over as Head Coach. But despite the new coach, there was the same pain. In just their third game of the season, Wisconsin lost to Arizona State on one of the most baffling plays in College Football History. Two weeks later, Wisconsin took #4 Ohio State to the brink before falling by seven. The Badgers then lost by seven again in their last regular season game to Penn State. The season ended with another heartbreaking bowl loss to South Carolina in a game that was closer than the deficit (10) indicated.
In 2014, Wisconsin started their season with a 24-7 lead against #13 LSU with the entire country watching. They collapsed, giving up 21 unanswered points. Wisconsin’s Big Ten Opener was also a loss. Despite over 250 yards from Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin lost to Northwestern six due to three red zone interceptions. Their third loss was not quite as close.
In 2015, new Head Coach Paul Chryst led the Badgers to a 10-3 record. One loss was to Alabama. The other two? A four-point loss against Iowa because of a goal line fumble, and a six-point loss against Northwestern because of a wrongly waived off touchdown with a few ticks left.
This current year, Wisconsin again finished 10-3. Their three losses were each by seven-points. They lost to #4 Michigan in an ugly game which Wisconsin had dozens of opportunities to win. They also blew a 10-point lead before falling in overtime to #2 Ohio State. And for a grand finale, they blew a 21-point lead to #7 Penn State in the Big Ten Championship with a trip to the Rose Bowl on the line.
The painful moments and losses aren’t exclusive to just football. Wisconsin Basketball’s last four NCAA Tournament trips have featured last second losses on shots by Chris Chiozza and Aaron Harrison, a blown lead in the National Championship game, and a last minute collapse against Notre Dame. It doesn’t get rougher than that.
While it is easy to look at all those painful moments and cry, there is a positive angle. Wisconsin is so close to getting over the hump. They are competing and pushing the best teams in the conference every single year in football, and it is only a matter of time before a few more breaks fall their way. The same goes for basketball.
Every single year, if a few plays or games went just a little bit differently, Wisconsin Basketball and Football would have been right there, possibly vying for a National Title. A championship may not be as far down the road as we think. And when it comes, it will be even sweeter thanks to all the pain we had to endure to get there.