Boring is Beautiful
It’s quite a time for Wisconsin sports. The Milwaukee Brewers made the playoffs, the Green Bay Packers started off well, and the University of Wisconsin Badgers remain undefeated. The 2019 Badger football team looks particularly intriguing, with an all-American running back, destructive offensive line, great defense, and led by a capable quarterback.
If you follow college football, that sounds like a broken record. It describes virtually every team since Barry Alvarez arrived in 1990 to revive a long-suffering program. Many thought Barry had better opportunities. But he saw potential – a wonderful Big Ten community with a rabid, rowdy fan base.
To that I can personally attest.
I was born in Madison to two parents who graduated from UW. My grandfather taught at UW for decades in the Ag school. All throughout my childhood, the football game played sideshow to the tailgating, body-passing, band and shenanigans that went on around it. The team was the Ed McMahon to the fan’s Johnny Carson.
Enter Barry Alvarez.
Barry had a plan. He reached out to Wisconsin high school coaches. He learned what a solid recruiting base looked like. He wanted a tough, run-oriented team that executed simple plays well (Vince Lombardi, anyone?). He wanted good students and high-effort players.
His plan took hold immediately, contrary to what the results showed. He won only 11 games his first 3 years, including a 1-10 first season. The team began to take on his identity though, and by 1993, he had the pieces in place.
That magical year saw his team literally plow through the regular season with a 10-1-1 record. They boasted not one but two great running backs – Brent Moss and Terrell Fletcher. They opened holes with mostly homegrown offensive lineman. They had a talented (if under-used) receiving corps and a terrific defense. They were led by quarterback Darrell Bevel, known for his game management skills more than gaudy statistics.
The Badgers would go on to defeat UCLA for its first Rose Bowl win. The rest is history.
Fast forward to 2019, and you’ll find a team incredibly similar to the 1993 version. Over that span, the Badgers have won the Big Ten Conference multiple times, appeared in several Rose Bowls, and routinely win bowl games against “superior” opponents.
Why are the Badgers so successful against teams that, according to experts, consistently out-recruit Wisconsin?
The Badgers know who they are. They don’t pretend otherwise. They’re called boring. They aren’t flashy. They don’t show up on many “top recruiting” lists. But boy, can they make good teams look bad. Never was that more apparent than when they demolished Michigan in mid-September. Wisconsin didn’t need its All-American running back Jonathan Taylor the whole game. Playing only half of it, he amassed over 200 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns. The 35-14 win doesn’t begin to capture how thoroughly Wisconsin crushed the maize and blue.
Michigan, once one of the “blue bloods” of college football, finds itself struggling yet again with top echelon teams. Yes, they’ve been good, but rarely great since the early 90’s. What’s missing?
Four- and Five-Star recruits find themselves in a revolving door of schemes. Despite the arrival of savior Jim Harbaugh, now in his 5th year, Michigan doesn’t know what it is. And it shows. They certainly had one under Bo Schembechler. If they do establish one, they’re bound to be good.
Identity is vital to all organizations striving for success. Companies constantly pursuing new strategies, diversification or “growth for growth’s sake” do so at their own peril.
Since 1953, Romo has been focused on developing, innovating and delivering durable graphics. Period. We’ve had many fantastic contributors come and go. We’ve seen technology change dramatically, as have our clients. We’ve designed new ways of putting it on products. We’ve made it glow, we’ve enabled it with electronics.
Through it all, one focus remains – making the best possible durable art the world has ever seen. Oh, and watching Wisconsin football on Saturdays.