The Birth of Bucky Badger’s Push-Ups
“Five, six, SEVEN!”
If you’ve been to a Badger football game, you’ve likely heard counting from the student section — complete with synchronized arm motions — as Bucky executes a round of push-ups, one for each point, after the team’s initial score.
If the Badgers score again, there will be more push-ups to come. In fact, cumulative push-ups per game, in recent years, have reached into the 500s.
But that wasn’t always the case. Bucky’s push-ups started in the late 1980s or early 1990s in an effort to entertain the crowds during some of the team’s more lackluster seasons.
“The student fans mostly arrived after halftime, and if we were lucky, stuck around for the Fifth Quarter,” says Joe Martino ’92, who was Bucky team captain from 1990 to 1992. “The [UW Spirit Squad] was struggling and had to look for outside sponsorships and donations to stay funded for trips and apparel.”
Although accounts differ on exactly how and when the tradition began, it seems that the student section’s enthusiasm at the time was much like the team’s score — deficient — and it was on Bucky’s shoulders (or, rather, his triceps) to fix it.
Christopher Milz ’93, who is believed to have been the first Bucky mascot to perform the arduous exercise during games, says he learned of the idea for push-ups while talking to a University of Kentucky Wildcats mascot at a spirit-squad summer camp in the late 1980s. “I said, ‘That’s cool, I think we need to do that at Wisconsin.’ ”
Milz says he implemented the inaugural push-ups at Camp Randall Stadium in 1989, when the Badgers played against Iowa. But Martino recalls Milz doing them for the first time against Iowa State in 1991. At any rate, the push-ups appealed to fans, and the group of Buckys decided to continue with the idea.
“The crowd really responded, and we thought, ‘Whoa!’ ” Martino says. He notes that the prior season had ended with “a dull thud” — and a 1–10 record to show for it. “The students were bored, the attendance was way down, but hopes were high as a new coach [Barry Alvarez] had just been named.”
Despite their differing memories, the former Buckys are glad to see that the tradition carries on today.
Published in the Fall 2019 issue