‘We’ll throw you a brat’: UW students prepare for pandemic Badger games as local leaders warn against parties

MADISON, Wis. – The news of the return of Badger football is cause for celebration for many students, but local leaders are cautioning against any sort of partying or tailgating.

Getting a house across the street from Camp Randall was a selling point for Jake Simmons and Allie Stephens, seniors at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who signed their lease at the beginning of the year.

“Football game days, just being able to live right across from Camp Randall – there’s definitely something special about that as a college student,” Simmons said.

Even living so close to the stadium, the usual college experience still feels far away.

“Tailgates are the best social experience on campus, I think,” Stephens said. “I definitely miss having that.”

The announcement that football games would resume this fall brought students a bit closer to normalcy.

“I’m just excited to tailgate,” said senior Noah Schryver, who lives a couple blocks away. “Obviously doing that safely, but still enjoying myself during my last year here.”

For the sake of the surrounding area, Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said he wants to press pause on the party.

“When you have events that bring more people together, and more people downtown who aren’t on campus such as a tailgate, a house party, whatever way people are going to get together to celebrate games, you are going to have an increase in the risk of spread, and you are going to have a risk that it spreads beyond the campus,” Parisi said. “This is real. This is a serious disease. Any decision that increases the chances for people to congregate and people to party and people to drink alcohol are going to increase the risk that this virus spreads even more.”

Madison Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway shares the sentiment.

“If I thought there was a way to do football without that happening, I’d be all for it,” Rhodes-Conway said. “But we can’t support folks in the stands in any sort of density, and we certainly can’t support parties. The bottom line here, folks, is our health is the most important thing.”

Students including Simmons and Stephens said they’re planning to cheer on the Badgers safely and have set up strict rules in their household which they plan to continue. However, they said they can’t speak for everyone.

“We definitely expect houses on this block to be having big tailgates and things,” Stephens said. “I hope that’s something that’s regulated pretty carefully. I think this is a big deal and it’s our job to keep each other safe.”

When it comes to regulation, a UW Police spokesperson said they’re still working through logistics and will have a better idea of their plans in a week or two. Madison Police said they will continue to work with Public Health Madison & Dane County in addressing issues like gathering size.

“Compliance with the public health order (mask wearing, social distancing, capacity limits, etc.) is critical to public safety and welfare to help decrease the spread of COVID-19,” Police Officer Tyler Grigg wrote in a statement.

PHMDC stressed how tailgating would only worsen the spread of coronavirus on and around campus.

“Of course it’s disappointing that something as well-loved as gathering to watch Badger football games can’t happen this year,” said PHMDC Director Janel Heinrich. “But the reality is that it’s not possible to have a traditional football season without substantially increasing COVID-19 transmission. We value people’s health and lives over sports, and we hope that UW does as well.”

“Honestly, I’m feeling like it’s gonna still be kind of, a little bit crazy,” Schryver said. “Just with football coming back, I’m sure everyone’s hyped, ready to have a good time, although there definitely should be precautions.”

With the proper precautions, students said they can still get close enough to the game day experience. Stephens and Simmons said they will limit any gatherings to those in their household.

“Wear a mask, stay away, we’ll throw you a brat, but let’s do it six feet away,” Simmons said.