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Paul Bunyan's Axe: How Wisconsin's Plan Fails To Solve A Non-Existent Problem

UW's "sensible" middle ground solution still has a problem and it's one that undercuts the main idea behind changing the Axe tradition.

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If you've been really busy with that thing called "real life" in the last 24 hours, then you've missed quite a bit in terms of HATE WEEK news. A quick summary:

- At his Monday press conference, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen announced that Paul Bunyan's Axe would no longer be kept on the Badgers sideline. Instead, it would "disappear" until it was given to the winning team in their locker room. It turned out he hadn't consulted Jerry Kill or Minnesota, though supposedly Barry Alvarez gave the plan his royal blessing.

Andersen was widely (and rightly) ridiculed for this decision. Wisconsin's own players were...less than thrilled by the move.

- On Monday evening, UW released a statement where Andersen "clarified" his comments, if by clarified you mean contradicted everything he said previously to the point where they weren't even referring to the same plan.

So, you're all caught up and we can move on right? I mean, this is a reasonable middle ground that keeps the players safe from their inner demons and makes sure that someone is still thinking of the children (let's ignore the fact that the children are forced to listen to EAT S**T/ F**K YOU all game).

Here is UW's plan for the Axe, word for word:

The Axe will be brought to the field late in the fourth quarter and staged near the goalpost of the winning team. The winning team will then be allowed to celebrate on the field with the Axe as has been the tradition.

That's a great plan if Minnesota beats the Badgers like they did Iowa, or if Wisconsin beats the Gophers like they did Nebraska. In a blowout or victory where the outcome is certain before the end of the game there will be no issues. The equipment staff will have time to get the Axe to the appropriate end zone and have it set up for the winning team to take/keep possession at the end of the game.

Some of you may have already figured out where I'm going with this...

The Problem

What are you going to do when this happens Badgers? Where are you supposed to put the the Axe if the game is still in doubt in the final seconds? Do you guess? Make an assumption on who is going to win? In the Rhys Lloyd scenario would you have the Axe over at Minnesota's end zone already? What if Rhys missed? Then you've got Wisconsin players sprinting to collect a trophy in the same space that Minnesota players will be using to get to their locker room. How is that keeping things safe for the children?

Yessiree, it sure is a good thing that rivalry games never come down to the final seconds or the final play.

Well, at least the road team never pulls this stuff off.

Oh. Well. Shoot.

The Solution

Get out of your own way and stop screwing this thing up Wisconsin. Was the end of game situation last year desirable? No, not really. Is it easy to prevent in the future? You bet it is. How?

It's simple. Both coaches tell their teams no shenanigans will be tolerated and anything out of line will get swift punishment. If you win? Get the Axe, don't jaw at each other, don't try to chop the goalposts while the other team signs it's school song, take more selfies if you need to while you wait, and avoid any final confrontation while the other team leaves the field. If you lose? Follow your normal post game routine, don't jaw at each other, don't try to get in the way of the other team's celebration, avoid any final confrontation while you leave the field. See? Easy.

Maybe Wisconsin is concerned that the Badgers won't listen to Gary Andersen. Maybe they're concerned that Andersen won't follow through. One thing we know is that Jerry Kill won't have a problem laying down the law before (and if needed, after) the fact. After all, we're talking about the man who sat his best linebacker for multiple series in a huge rivalry game because he was late to a single team meeting. I think we can say with confidence that the Gophers know Kill is serious and wouldn't mess around when told what not to do. And tongue in cheek comments at the beginning of this paragraph aside, I'm confident in saying the same is true of Gary Andersen and the Badgers.

In other words, there is no problem that needs fixing. Wisconsin has messed with tradition to come up with solution that doesn't even solve the non-existent problem they're so worried about in the first place. It's completely pointless.

Come Saturday I'm really hoping the Gophers win the Axe back. All the traditional reasons apply, but this weekend a new urge will drive my desire to see Minnesota parade around Camp Randall with Paul Bunyan's tree destroying trophy. I want Minnesota to win it so that in 2015 Jerry Kill and the Gophers can do what Wisconsin would do if they weren't too busy creating reasons to ignore tradition...put the Axe back up for grabs on the sideline.

Where it belongs.