College football: Gophers-Badgers rivalry ‘healthy,’ says Wisconsin AD
By Andy GrederSt. Paul Pioneer Press CHICAGO -- Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez says that regardless of where Paul Bunyan's Axe is after the Badgers' football game with Minnesota, the loser should get out of the way. "I think both team...
By Andy Greder
St. Paul Pioneer Press
CHICAGO - Wisconsin athletics director Barry Alvarez says that regardless of where Paul Bunyan’s Axe is after the Badgers’ football game with Minnesota, the loser should get out of the way.
“I think both teams should know that the other team isn’t going to stand around and shake hands after the game,” Alvarez told the Pioneer Press during the first of two Big Ten media days Thursday. “Whoever wins the game is gonna get that Axe and parade it. The losing team (should) just leave the field.”
When Wisconsin beat Minnesota 20-7 in 2013, some Badgers players acted as if they were using it to chop down the goal post in front of the Gophers’ tunnel at TCF Bank Stadium. As some Gophers players left the field, they confronted the Badgers.
Before last November’s game at Camp Randall Stadium, then-Badgers coach Gary Andersen said the 6-foot-long trophy would be staged after halftime behind the end zone nearest to the locker room of the likely winning team.
The Badgers beat Minnesota 34-24 to retain the Axe for the 11th consecutive time, and 18th in the past 20 years. The Gophers haven’t beat Wisconsin since 2003. Still, the rivalry game had implications last season; the Big Ten West Division title was on the line.
“I think the rivalry is healthy,” Alvarez said. “The last two years have been good games.”
Gophers athletics director Norwood Teague said he doesn’t yet know where the Axe will be when the Badgers visit Minneapolis on Nov. 28.
“I want it to be a good celebration for whoever wins and not one that is antagonistic,” Teague said.
Last year’s 10-point Wisconsin win was the closest between the teams since consecutive three-point wins over Minnesota in 2008-09.
“It’s always important when you have a rivalry with a great school like Wisconsin, but we certainly want to win that one,” Teague said.
Alvarez said the games have had added intrigue because both teams play a style that focuses on running the football - the same ethos Alvarez recalls from his time coaching the Badgers from 1990-2005 and went up against former Gophers coach Glen Mason, who was at the U from 1997-2006.
“Both teams get after it,” Alvarez said. “It’s a good, hard-nosed game, always. It’s cold. It’s in the elements.”
New Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst grew up in Madison and his father, George, recruited in Minnesota as a Badgers assistant and head coach at Division III Wisconsin-Platteville.
“It’s one of those authentic, real rivalry games,” said Chryst, who was the Badgers offensive coordinator from 2006-11.
Chryst has studied the Gophers since being named head coach in December.
“I think they continue to get better,” he said. “Watching them … you get a feel for them - a lot of really good players.”Alvarez said he should talk to Teague, while new Badgers coach Paul Chryst should talk to Jerry Kill, about a postgame plan for the Axe.
“To make sure that we eliminate any potential issues after a game,” he said. “I think we need to be proactive instead of reactive.”
Alvarez recalled a particularly painful game for Gophers fans when he tried to be proactive. In 2005, before Wisconsin blocked a kick to steal a 38-34 win at the Metrodome, Alvarez said he nipped a confrontation during pregame warmups.
“We always punt and then go in (to the locker room), and we were going to kick right into their warmups,” Alvarez said. “I knew that we were going to have an issue; our guys running off, and their guys were hot. I just held them until (Minnesota) ran off the field and then kicked the ball.”
Alvarez avoided a possible skirmish that year, and the Badgers took the Axe back to Madison - as has been their custom.
Wisconsin running back Corey Clement wants to go back to the old tradition of the winning team keeping the Axe on their sideline. But he can’t stand the image of the Gophers snatching it away.
“I don’t want to face them running to our sideline,” Clement said. “That would be pretty devastating for all the work (we put in) throughout the season, and they take your Axe.”
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