UPDATE 8PM on 11/24/14: Gary took it all back. Go here to see us ridicule the PR soundbite statement UW released on his behalf.
So...it's #HateWeek, and a rather important one. One could maybe blame Gopher fans for not quite getting fully into the game yet after still nursing their excitement hangovers from Lincoln. However, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen changed that in an instant during his Monday Afternoon Press Conference:
Gary Andersen says Paul Bunyan's Axe won't be on the sideline during the game anymore. Axe will "disappear" until after the game.— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) November 24, 2014
#Badgers, Gophers had minor skirmish after last year's Axe game. Clear neither side wants anything like that again this year.— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) November 24, 2014
Gem from Andersen on last year's skirmish being close to getting worse: "Who are you going to bring in, the National Guard?"— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) November 24, 2014
Yeah....that didn't go over well with, well pretty much anyone who isn't a Badger homer.
Um, no Gary Andersen. That's not how this works.— Matt Humbert (@MVofDT) November 24, 2014
BOO. RT @B5Q: Andersen says Paul Bunyan's Axe won't be on the sideline during the game anymore. Axe will "disappear" until after the game.— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) November 24, 2014
I understand there was a near brawl last year, but seeing one team run and get the Axe and then chop the field goal posts is awesome.— Brian Bennett (@BennettESPN) November 24, 2014
So will the Axe "disappear" just like the Slab of Bacon? Shenanigans.— Kevin Zalec (@KevinZintheTC) November 24, 2014
So no chance of anything like this on Saturday: https://t.co/4OVVzYi83d— Brian Bennett (@BennettESPN) November 24, 2014
"It's ok for us to do things 'in the spirit of the rivalry,' but when you're going to win, we need to tone things down."— Ben Dawson (@BenjaminJDawson) November 24, 2014
Well...at least Andersen talked to Jerry Kill about this, and it was a mutual decision between coaches to keep things from going overboard right? RIGHT?
Andersen says he hasn't talked to Jerry Kill about this new Axe policy yet.— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) November 24, 2014
So to summarize, the Badger head football coach (who has only 2 years of involvement in the rivalry) is scared that there might be a brawl after Minnesota wins the Axe this season. This means no Gophers run across the field to create a moment like the Rhys Lloyd moment in 2003 (which lives in the memory of any Gopher fan who witnessed it). Instead, the Gophers will have to go back into their locker room where the WI equipment staff will deliver the Axe to them (probably, but we all know how that went with the Slab of Bacon) and there will be no chance to celebrate with their fans.
Andersen says players can bring The Axe back out onto the field, fans after they get it from the locker room.— Bucky's 5th Quarter (@B5Q) November 24, 2014
Oh. OK. So no running across the field to get it, but they can get the Axe and come back onto the field. That makes no sense. Of course by Gary doing this he probably just made things worse if Minnesota wins.
Gary is self aware enough to realize he just made the situation more contentious, isn't he?— Matt Humbert (@MVofDT) November 24, 2014
The Gophers haven't won the axe for 10 years. The players know this. They might want to celebrate just a bit if they win. This isn't going to be contained to the visitors locker room at Camp Randall. The Gophers WILL come back out to celebrate with the 3-5k Gophers fans who will be in the stands. The Badger band will be on the field. Hopefully some tuba player from Mount Horeb doesn't get any stupid ideas.
Frankly, the only way to read this is that Gary Andersen is scared Minnesota might finally beat Wisconsin this year and win the Axe back. If he was so confident Wisconsin was going to win, there would be no issue. There would be no incident. No Gopher players are going to try and stop Wisconsin from chopping down their own goalposts. Anderson is worried Minnesota will win, and HIS players will try and stop the Gophers from chopping down the goalposts like the Gophers did last season at TCF. Of course we will leave out a few of the details such as Wisconsin crowding up and trying to go through the group of Minnesota players singing Hail Minnesota to do it, but sure, no more incidents.
My thinking is COMPLETELY irrational about this garbage with Gary Anderson hiding the Axe.— jdmill (@jdmill) November 24, 2014
Note to Badger fans. We know we're slightly irrational about this. It's been ten freaking years and in the season Minnesota is most competitive coming into the game the Badger head coach unilaterally changes the rules. That will happen.
This is just another in a list of nonsense that Wisconsin has pulled with Minnesota. We can add it to letting the Slab of Bacon "go missing" before magically appearing in your trophy case (even though Minnesota is the rightful owner as of the last game), your favorite former coach going for two because it was on the card, etc. The fact that Badger fans want to blame Minnesota for the 2013 "incident" when UW players provoked a situation by crowding up on the Gophers/trying to push through as they sang the alma mater with the students doesn't help.
So thanks Gary, for getting Gopher fans energized. We were still thinking about Nebraska this morning. We sure as hell aren't thinking about anything else but #HATEWEEK now...