The Grateful Red
The cheering mass of students clad in tie-dyed T-shirts debuted at men’s basketball games at the Kohl Center in 2002.
They may not have the best seats in the house as Wisconsin tries to secure an invite to the NCAA tournament, but their voices carry.
The cheering mass of students clad in tie-dyed T-shirts — called The Grateful Red — debuted in 2002, a few years after the men’s basketball team moved to the Kohl Center from the Field House. Some feared that the new venue wouldn’t have the same intimidation factor as the Old Barn, but anyone who has attended a home game in recent years can see (and hear) that they needn’t have worried. The Grateful Red’s members still make opposing players flinch during free throws and guide them to the bench after they foul out with helpful directions of “left, right, left, right …”
Despite the high demand for tickets, Wisconsin has one
of the smallest student sections in the Big Ten Conference.
A lottery system determines who gets the right to pack the 2,100 seats in three tiers at the south end of the Kohl Center.
So where did the group get its name? After Coach Bo Ryan objected to any ideas that played off his name, Saul Phillips, then director of basketball operations and now head coach at North Dakota State University, stumbled on “The Grateful Red.” It stuck.
Although there’s no prescribed dress code, student season- ticket holders get the latest version of the tie-dyed T-shirts for
free each year. Other members of The Grateful Red choose to exercise their sartorial creativity. Last year, one fan came dressed in a polar bear costume, a nod to center Brian Butch’s nickname. And a few years ago, a group of five female students, known as the “Front Row Girls,” outfitted themselves with different matching outfits for each home game, attracting fans of their own.
The Grateful Red’s antics don’t always thrill regular season- ticket holders. When the students decide that other fans aren’t doing their part to give the Badgers home court advantage, they chastise them, chanting, “Old people, stand up!”
Published in the Spring 2009 issue