It was tough to gauge how many fans would make their way to Camp Randall Stadium on Thursday evening for the “Night of the New Red Threads.” Several factors seemed to be pressed against Wisconsin and its athletic department. The weather was less than appealing, with storms passing through the area just hours before the festivities were to begin.
Though Wisconsin would unveil new apparel under its agreement with Under Armour starting at midnight, the athletic department noted to many on social media that uniforms wouldn’t be part of the reveal. Many fans are intrigued by possible alternate jerseys used primarily for big-time games from the Maryland-based company (especially with night games at home against Ohio State and Nebraska for football this season). Though it appears UW’s “brand” won’t necessarily change with the switch from Adidas, there’s always a hint of curiosity.
When speaking with those in attendance, the numbers could have been 200 or 2,000 that showed up late on a weeknight on the cusp of the July 4th holiday weekend.
Those factors ultimately didn’t matter. Over 2,200 fans made their way through the Camp Randall Arch on a literal red carpet, through UW’s football facilities and out onto the field through the players’ tunnel. All had the opportunity to interact with coaches and players from all programs, along with taking pictures with championship titles, the Heisman Trophy and Bucky Badger. With other partnerships signed recently with sports drink company ASPIRE and e-commerce powerhouse Fanatics, Wisconsin’s leadership has put the athletic program into a new era.
It wasn’t just the sheer number of attendees that was impressive. Walking along the long line of Badgers faithful on Randall Avenue that extended down to Kellner Hall on Monroe Street, a wide range of ages decorated the FieldTurf of Camp Randall.
There were the young ones who were obviously up way past their bedtime with their families, and those college students who were still in town. You can’t forget the older fans, either, as a middle-aged man continually shouted “WE BEAT MINNESOTA!” while triumphantly holding Paul Bunyan’s Axe over his head. You could hear him from end zone to end zone.
For the latter, head football coach Paul Chryst genuinely watched and smiled while looking on at the fan decked out in cardinal and white. Kudos to the coaching staffs, as lines for pictures were long and flowing for photo opportunities. As Todd Milewski tweeted into the wee hours of Friday morning, Chryst and both Greg Gard and Jonathan Tsipis stayed after midnight to meet with them.
The entire night was a success, which ended with the early entrance into Bucky’s Locker Room. Fans were granted access at 11 p.m. CT, and those who waited in line walked through a well-decorated tunnel — with music and lights aplenty — to the apparel store located inside the stadium. With red carpet laid out, fans were then able to check out the new gear and spend to their hearts’ (and wallets’) desires.
It takes a lot to put together an operation and evening such as this. The athletic department, the university and its staff all deserve credit for their vision and execution from initial negotiations with the apparel giant to what became a popular extravaganza for fans.
It may be a new beginning with Under Armour and other partners, as Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez ushered in the reign of “Click Clack” with “Welcome to a new era of Wisconsin Athletics.” Yet, UW continues being the same in one way — that’s giving some great experience to its fanbase.