View From the Bleachers

Bret Bielema has scheduled an FCS opponent each year as Wisconsin football's head coach. Instead of being treated to the Austin Peay's of the world, columnist Michael Bleach thinks taking a look at in-state powerhouse, Wisconsin-Whitewater, might please fans and Bielema alike.

MADISON — Ten touchdowns later Saturday and Wisconsin fans were once again reminded of the immutable truth that 330-pound athletes can bully 250-pound athletes up and down the field all day long.

Lucky us.

But this isn't another diatribe about the cupcake-scheduling culture. I'll leave that to this guy and this one. The blatant money-grab that is all Austin Peay-type games might leave some feeling robbed of a full-priced ticket , but the athletic department has to maintain a self-sustaining budget somehow, and anyways, UW should probably charge double for Ohio State coming to Camp Randall, so it all works out in the end.

No, this is a question of sound marketing principals. See, it appears that head coach Bret Bielema has been ignoring the good hippies of the capital-square farmers market. Bielema went all the way to Tennessee to buy a team willing to be run over (John Clay) and around (James White) for fair compensation — reportedly in the neighborhood of $300,000 — when a perfectly suitable product could be bought locally.

It's true that the Badgers are the only Division-I football team in Wisconsin and there isn't even an FCS school in the fine Dairy Land.

But there is a national championship-winning program just an hour southwest of Madison. And though Wisconsin-Whitewater is probably busy preparing for its sixth straight trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl (known as the D-III National Championship), I am sure they would be willing take some time to make a trip up to Camp Randall.

Because if all you require for a tune up game for the Big Ten season is an athletic mismatch on which to pour 70 points on the scoreboard, then why not host Wisconsin-Whitewater for one Saturday?

This may sound tongue-in-cheek, but I am as serious as the perennially miserable Bob Bostad.

Why not Wisconsin-Whitewater?

On Saturday, Austin Peay allowed ten touchdowns on the first 11 drives of the day, before the Badgers graciously agreed to run out the clock on the game's final drive. Is anyone claiming that UW-Whitewater, a program at the very top of its division, couldn't do better then 70 points allowed?

So if the competition wouldn't be appreciably worse — and it would be hard to be worse, short of the Austin Peay Governors subbing in a few elected officials into the game — then the romantic benefits alone should tip the scales in Whitewater's favor. Of the Warhawks' 99 players, 77 come from high schools in Wisconsin. That makes 77 different guys who likely grew up wanting to play for the Badgers, but ended up being a tad too small or slow to make the team. Is there any reason to deny them one chance to play in front of 80,321 fans for once in their life?

Speaking of the fans, the reported attendance for Saturday's exhibition matchup with Austin Peay was 77,224 and that number was reduced to an eighth of that size by the time the fourth quarter rolled around. Bringing an in-state team to Camp Randall would insure that not only the stadium fills completely up, but some fans might actually stick around for the entire game, not just until Jump Around has played. Plus, the tailgating experience of Wisconsin citizens coming from all over the state would fantastic. So we would have that going for us, which is nice.

Look at the sheer economics of the issue as well. Instead of forking over hundreds of thousands of dollars to a school few had heard of and fewer care about, either give that money to a fellow state school that is always searching for athletic funds (everyone wins!) or pocket the money (UW wins!). The financial details of scheduling Whitewater matter little, because the simply fact UW won't have to pay Austin Peay to barely show up can only be a good thing.

Bielema is convinced that a tasty cupcake before sitting down for the real meal only helps his team. Key starters can be rested, minor injuries are given another week to heal, confidence is built, scheduling is a complicated process, yada yada yada. No one can convince him to stop scheduling FCS opponents each year. As Nick Toon likes to say during Ask the Badgers "it is, what it is."

Bring in Whitewater for just one year, however, and all the griping of inferior competition and inferior games will go away. Then he becomes a scheduling savant who cares about the fans and state citizens.

Living in the most liberal city in the state, Bielema should see the bumper sticker everywhere: "I Buy Local."

Think Whitewater is infeasible? Let Michael know at bleach.michael@gmail.com or follow him on twitter @michaelbleach


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