PLATTEVILLE, Wis. (Civic Media) – Driving into town, you wouldn’t know that there’s a Division 1 college football program holding the first part of its training camp there.
Platteville, a city of just under 12,000 people a little over an hour southwest of Madison, has very little, if any, in the way of promoting that it’s hosting the Wisconsin Badgers football team.
Outside of a handful of social media posts and news articles from southwestern Wisconsin media, the fact the Badgers are practicing on Butch Leitl Field at Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium has gone largely unpublicized. Wisconsin is holding its first six practices of fall camp at UW-Platteville as they work towards their season opener on Sept. 2 against Buffalo.
“I think it’s kind of cool,” a Platteville resident who set up a chair at the top of the hill to the north of the stadium, just off of the sidewalk, to watch the practice. “It’s not every day the freakin’ Badgers are in your backyard.”
Badgers practices are closed to the public, but along the northernmost part of the stadium is a hill that provides onlookers a chance to see the action through the security fencing.
“I used to come out here for the Bears,” another person nearby chimed in. “It’s nice to have something like this again.”
For UW-Platteville, hosting the Badgers meant keeping dorms, weight rooms, training space, and of course, the stadium restricted to only those with the UW program. Before Sunday’s practice, golf carts full of Badgers coaches and staffers zoomed in along Longhorn Drive in front of Sesquicentennial Hall to get to work. Players marched in from the different resident halls and training facilities on campus.
“We are extremely grateful to partner with UW-Platteville on this opportunity,” Luke Fickell, Wisconsin’s new head football coach, said before the start of camp. “This is a tremendous way for our team to start fall camp and focus on coming together as a group both on and off the field.”
Monday will be the final practice for Wisconsin at Platteville before returning to Madison for the rest of fall camp. The Badgers are leaving in part because the UW-Platteville football program begins their fall camp later Monday.
Sunday’s practice offered insight into the competitive culture that Fickell has worked to create within the program. Several drills involved one-on-one matchups or scenarios that small groups of players worked together to “win” over others. Early in practice, offensive and defensive players worked one-on-one on a goal-line receiving drill, with Fickell keeping score for the offense and defense. The offense won on the final rep.
Multiple UW staff members said that the energy in camp is higher from years past, a staple of Fickell-led programs. Despite loud music from UW-Platteville’s recently updated sound system, assistant coaches could frequently be heard over it as they worked in position groups, and any time there was an offense versus defense situation, the players cheering would drown out any other noise.
Monday’s practice will be the sixth for Wisconsin before they head back up Highway 151 and return to Madison for the rest of fall camp. With the fall season about a week old, on the field, the Badgers are installing play packages and sorting rotations at every position. Off the field, Wisconsin is enjoying its home away from home, in a city with a population that would fill only about an eighth of Camp Randall Stadium.
Outside of some loud music in the mornings the past week, you wouldn’t even know that a team from the highest division of college football was working in Platteville ahead of a much-anticipated 2023 season. The city itself acts as a gateway of sorts to the rest of Wisconsin on the drive from Iowa, one of the Badgers’ biggest rivals. If the Badgers can find success in the first year of the Fickell era, it may be hard in future years to go around the college town without finding more Badgers red outside of homes along with the Platteville Pioneers’ familiar blue and orange.