first_imgWhenever my friends and I get together on the weekend, we always seem to manage to toast — apple juice only, of course — UW football coach Bret Bielema.And why shouldn’t we? The rookie coach led our Badgers to the best record in the history of the school and another big bowl victory, and if it had been another year besides the one Ohio State and Michigan decided to dominate, Wisconsin would have been on its way to Pasadena again.And let’s be honest, that red windbreaker is just downright sexy on him.Plus, following in the footsteps of Barry Alvarez — a man of legendary status on campus — is no easy task. Nevertheless, Bielema pulled it off this year, and he deserves our accolades.Looking back at the season, the No. 5 Badgers were indisputably dominating, garnering some well-deserved national attention and respect — and the credit goes to more than just Bielema.The offense — one led by offensive coordinator Paul Chryst — was at times unstoppable. The majority of games last season were blowouts, winning their games by an average of about 20 points.Earlier this week, Chryst announced he was going to stay with the Badgers despite attempts by the Dallas Cowboys and San Diego Chargers to try to lure him away. I’m sure the notion of working under guys like Wade Phillips or Norv Turner was probably pretty enticing — or not, one of the two. Nevertheless, Chryst turned down offers from NFL teams.No matter why Chryst decided to stick with the Badgers instead of heading for “the big time,” it’s something my friends should be toasting to as well.First and foremost, the Badgers are holding on to a guy who’s proven himself as a fantastic coordinator. Chryst, who will enter his third season at Wisconsin this fall, is batting 1.000 in helping to lead the Badgers to victories at the Capital One Bowl in Orlando.This past season, John Stocco proved doubters wrong, Travis Beckum set school tight end records and the P.J. Hill cheer quickly became a Camp Randall tradition.Bielema is thrilled to have a core group of coaches returning — as he should be — and he expressed his appreciation this week.”When you have as successful a season as we had in 2006, it’s not surprising that other teams have approached several of our coaches,” Bielema said in a statement. “I appreciate our coaches’ commitment to our program at Wisconsin, and I’m thrilled that our staff will return intact for the 2007 season.”Putting aside the fact that Chryst has shaped a successful offense, an NFL-caliber coach decided to stay at — of all places — Wisconsin. Now there’s a fact that should be celebrated.As a fifth-generation Badger, I learned the lyrics to “On Wisconsin” before I learned to tie my shoes — seriously. And my parents and grandparents kindly remind me today how lucky I am to be at Wisconsin when the football team is so good considering it was so bad for, well, forever.So when a guy who could ditch Madtown for the likes of Dallas or San Diego decides to stay — that’s pretty awesome. Something tells me in my parents’ years at Madison, a guy like Chryst with an offer from the NFL might have jumped ship pretty easily.The move parallels a shift in the Wisconsin program into a whole new class of football teams on the national level.Just look at some of the other teams that ended up toward the top of the USA Today poll at the end of the season — Florida, Ohio State and USC, to name a few. Those teams have been up there pretty consistently in the past, and Wisconsin hasn’t.Chryst’s move to stay in Wisconsin may not be in the same realm of excitement as a No. 1 Associated Press ranking in basketball, but in the long run, it’s probably more important.So if you’re out with friends this weekend, raise a sweet cup of O.J. or Minute Maid and deliver a toast to Paul Chryst this time, in honor of the class Wisconsin football has stepped up into.Tom Schalmo is a sophomore majoring in journalism and communication arts. If you’d like to find him to raise a toast you can write him at [email protected]last_img read more

first_imgKRIS UGARRIZA/Herald photoThrough 14 games of the 2008-09 season, the Wisconsin men’s hockey team has played at home just four times. Starting this weekend, the Badgers (5-7-2, 5-5-2 WCHA) will be home for four straight series, beginning with the College Hockey Showcase against Michigan State and No. 14 Michigan. And for a team trying to get back to .500, a little home cooking may be just what UW needs.“I think these are a big eight games for us,” said freshman forward Jordy Murray, who scored Wisconsin’s lone goal in Saturday’s 1-0 win over St. Cloud State. “We win these two games here and we’re back to .500. That’s been our goal ever since we got off to that slow start.”Murray and the Badgers saw their five-game unbeaten streak end Friday after a 6-2 loss to the Huskies. While they rebounded with a shutout win the next night, the series split is exactly the type of thing sophomore defenseman Brendan Smith hopes the team can avoid.“It definitely took a little wind out of our sails,” Smith said of the loss. “But I think we’ve just got to get off this roller coaster thing where we’re playing great and then we’re not playing so great.”Following the weekend split, Wisconsin is no longer receiving votes in the latest USCHO.com poll. For goaltender Shane Connelly, who admits to keeping an eye on the polls, the Badgers can’t seem to get any respect as of late.“It’s kind of crazy. I think we were 0-6-1 and we were getting votes, and now we’re .500 in the league and two games under .500 overall and we’re not getting votes,” Connelly said. “You can’t really pay much attention to that. We take care of our job, get back to .500 and then start going from there.“The votes will start coming in, and we’ll get our due.”The upcoming eight-game stretch may be UW’s best opportunity to gain some momentum while building a winning record. Michigan State, which Wisconsin will host Friday, is just 4-8-2 overall and 2-6-2 in CCHA play. The Wolverines, the Badgers’ Saturday night opponents, come to Madison with a 5-5-0 conference record and sit at 8-6-0 overall.Following the College Hockey Showcase, Wisconsin will see Alaska Anchorage, Alabama Hunstville and Northern Michigan all come to town. It’s a stretch of home games that some had circled at the beginning of the season as an opportunity to gain ground.Connelly still sees it as a chance for the Badgers to make some noise.“I see an opportunity that lies ahead of us,” Connelly said. “We could definitely make some ground that we lost in the beginning of the year.”Wisconsin’s biggest obstacle during that stretch could come in the form of the Michigan Wolverines, a team laden with NHL draft picks. Sophomore Aaron Palushaj leads the team with 20 points, while fellow sophomore Louie Caporusso’s 12 goals are a team best.“Both teams are extremely skilled,” Connelly said. “They’re both extremely offensively gifted teams. … We’ve just got to make sure we stay disciplined.”Michigan topped Wisconsin 3-2 in Ann Arbor in last year’s College Hockey Showcase, so the Badgers will be looking to return the favor on their home ice Saturday.That home ice advantage, however, is something UW has enjoyed on a very limited basis so far this season.“It’s a little bit easier schedule for us. That’s a little bit more comfort,” Connelly said. “Not too much of an adjustment, but at the same time it will be nice to get on a little streak here. We’re at home, and some of the freshmen can actually enjoy playing at the Kohl Center a little bit more.”This weekend’s series will also present Wisconsin with a scenario it already faced once this season: playing two teams in as many nights.The Badgers opened the year on the road against Boston College and then traveled to New Hampshire the following night. While UW dropped both games, that experience is something that could pay off this weekend with the Spartans and Wolverines in town.“That first weekend where we had to play two teams in two nights definitely gave us a little bit (of preparation),” Connelly said. “You can look back at that experience and realize there were so many adjustments we didn’t make going into UNH on Saturday night. Now we can switch gears after we’re done Friday night; we have to adjust to a new team on Saturday and get focused on that.”last_img read more