After playing in front of half empty student sections over the years, a frequent occurrence for 11 a.m. games, Wisconsin has made tweaks to the ticket policy in hopes of getting students in the stands earlier.
Against Nebraska, the hard work paid off.
"I thought our kids were affected by coming out and the student section was full and loud," Bielema said.
The next issue now for Bielema and Athletic Director Barry Alvarez is to try and cut back on the profane language chanted by the students that infiltrates the stadium and is audible on television. In a letter addressed to UW student season ticket holders, Alvarez and Bielema passed on some feedback they've received since the Nebraska game in hopes of deterring the behavior, such as:
"This past Saturday, my son and I attended our first Badger game at Camp Randall. All in all, it was great fun; however, one thing surprised and disturbed me. During the course of the game, the student body was led in a very obscene cheer consisting of echoing "Eat s---" and "F----you". I was pretty appalled considering that not all the spectators were 18 years or older. It was not the sort of thing children should be hearing."
"I recorded the game at home. You can hear the students chant "You f***ed up" when another player commits a penalty. I can't imagine that's the image we want for UW."
"The vulgar profanity the students chant back and forth to one another for amusement inside the stadium during the game is simply pathetic. I expected much more from the Wisconsin program."
"I was absolutely appalled by your students. I have been to about 15 other campuses, and I have never experienced worse students than I did at Wisconsin. In all of the venues I've been to, I've never dealt with students with less class than I did at your school."
The letter went on to say that both Alvarez and Bielema believe that the students, ‘are more creative than this' and that they ‘believe you want to represent yourselves, your university and the football program in a classier manner than this.'
It's more than just a profanity and family-friendly issue, but a recruiting issue, as Bielema said the UW staff has restructured where the staff sits recruits and has gotten negative comments from parents of recruits forced to listen to the four-letter fouls.
"It didn't help," Bielema said. "It's not a positive thing. The (emails) that get me is when a parent has a small child and you have to explain what's being said or try not to explain what's being said … When you are in college, you don't think big picture and you aren't supposed to. That's what's being in college, but that's just a negative aspect."
It's not all negative coming out of the student section and that's the thing Bielema and the program wants to embrace. The results certainly had an effect on Oct.1 when the Badgers played Nebraska, as the student section was packed full before kickoff and remained full well into the fourth quarter after the game had well been decided, as the students singing of the song ‘Buttercup' was talked about on the broadcast and from friends Bielema invited up from his time at Kansas State.
"That's unbelievable," said Bielema of the a cappella singing which was also included in the e-letter along with ‘Jump Around.' "I have a couple buddies that hadn't seen a game here before … and they were just blown away by that."
Bielema Against Scholarship Reduction
When word got to Bielema that the NCAA is exploring a reduction in the number of scholarships programs can give out, part of a long-term look at cutting costs at member institutions, he knew exactly where he stood on the issue.
"I would be adamantly opposed to it," Bielema said. "It's been well documented that I couldn't find scholarships for (Jared Abbrederis) and (Ethan Hemer). It's a perfect number. ‘If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' Coach (Hayden) Fry used to say that all the time and I think there's a lot of truth to it. We have a good game right now."
It's been almost 17 years before the NCAA reduced the amount of football scholarships. A football program used to have 105 scholarships at its disposal until it was cut to 95 in 1978. Scholarships were also reduced from 95 to 85 between 1992 and 1994. The committee is looking at possibly reducing the number of football scholarships to 80.
Look Out for Willis
At the Mendota Gridiron function Wednesday night, Bielema told the audience to be on the lookout for true freshman wide receiver Fred Willis this week. The 6-2 receiver has played in four games this season and has yet to catch a pass (although he recorded two tackles against South Dakota). After the amount of reserves that got to play last year against Indiana, Willis could see a lot of meaningful reps later in the game.
"What I try to do with that group is give them something to think about and Fred has grown so much in the last month," Bielema said. "Going back to camp, we didn't know much about him and he comes into high school camp and runs a sub 4.4 (40-yard dash). We're like, ‘Where'd this kid come from?' He takes to the coaching.
"Last week, we beat him up because he dropped a couple balls and I said in front of the team that if you keep making plays like that, you'll be a DB before you know it. He kind of looked at me and guys started telling him story about Niles Brinkley and all those other guys (who were moved to the secondary). He's caught everything since then."
Extra Points: Other than defensive end David Gilbert, Bielema said everybody is healthy and able to contribute on Saturday … Dezmen Southward will get the start of Shelton Johnson at strong safety, but Bielema said Johnson looked ‘really good' on Wednesday in practice and would be first off the bench … Kevin Claxton is expected to get the start over Ethan Armstrong at SLB, but Armstrong appears ‘more sudden' in his movements right now according to Bielema … With the Seattle Seahawks on a bye week, NFL rookie and former UW left guard John Moffitt was at practice Thursday.