The Big Ten is one of the most legendary college football conferences. For Big Ten fans, the tradition goes beyond the football field. The Ohio State Buckeyes have Brutus and their band, the Iowa Hawkeyes have a pink locker room for visitors and Penn State has its white-outs. The Big Ten may be full of tradition, but Wisconsin football has the most famous tradition of all.
You’ve seen it on ESPN. You’ve seen it on YouTube. But unless you were there, you’ve never really experienced it. Wisconsin’s “Jump Around” tradition turns its stadium into an electric bounce house, but why do they do it and how did it begin?
What is Wisconsin’s “Jump Around” Tradition?
The “Jump Around” tradition is as simple as it sounds. To participate, all you need is to be in Camp Randall Stadium during a Wisconsin Badgers home game between the third and fourth quarters. That and your best jumping shoes.
For 21 seasons and counting, the tradition has turned University of Wisconsin-Madison Badger fans into bouncing red-and-white popcorn on game day. Between the third quarter and the fourth, the stadium gets hyped on House of Pain’s “Jump Around,” a song that was released in 1989 but didn’t become a hit until 1992.
The jam cheers on Wisconsin fans and the football team while striking fear into the hearts of Wisconsin’s enemies. As fate would have it, the very first enemy “Jump Around” ever intimidated was a pre-NFL Drew Brees and his Purdue Boilermakers.
How Did the “Jump Around” Tradition Begin?
Camp Randall Stadium played “Jump Around” during a football game for the first time in 1998.
Drew Brees led Purdue against Wisconsin, down by a touchdown heading into the fourth quarter. Legend has it a UW-Madison marketing intern (and former UW football player) named Ryan Sondrup played the tune after being asked to come up with a list of high-energy songs to play fans between quarters.
So he went to his favorite watering hole, Wando’s Bar & Grill, and put a quarter in the jukebox. House of Pain’s hit came on, and the bar patrons reacted positively, though they didn’t exactly jump around. Sondrup figured that was good enough and put the song on the list. It played during that fateful 1998 break between the third and the fourth quarters, and the student section loved it. Wisconsin went on to win the game, finish the season 11-1 and win the Rose Bowl. A tradition was born that year, one that continues today.
The hype song has gotten Badgers athletics fans through hard times. Even in games when the Badgers have no hope of winning, the tune plays. For Wisconsin faithful, spending a Saturday at Camp Randall is an all-day experience, win or lose. “Jump Around” is part of the tradition now, a necessary culmination of the day, no matter how the Badgers perform. That’s why they’ve played it at every single game since 1998. Well, almost every single game, that is.
The Time Wisconsin Didn’t Play “Jump Around”
There was one time since 1998 when “Jump Around” wasn’t played between the third and fourth quarters. It was five years after the tradition began, in 2003, when Camp Randall was undergoing renovations on their upper decks.
Officials decided not to play the raucous anthem during the opening game to not cause the stadium to collapse. That all makes sense, but nobody told the fans. So when the fourth quarter rolled around and no song played, students were understandably upset. Wisconsin won the game, and the tradition was reinstated the next home game and has continued ever since.
UW fans have made “Jump Around” their own, but it wasn’t always a red and white thing. The song was written and performed by House of Pain, a musical group featuring the well-known rapper Everlast. Everlast performed the hit live with the University of Wisconsin Marching Band before the Rose Bowl in 2011. Despite Everlast’s best efforts, the TCU Horned Frogs defeated the Badgers in the bowl game.
Wisconsin’s “Jump Around” tradition is the most electric hype song in college football and, indeed, all of the NCAA. If you find yourself at a Badger football game in Madison, WI, late on a Saturday afternoon, warm those legs up. There’s a good chance you’re about to be asked to jump around.