Daniels: Non-revenue UW sports worthy of attention

first_imgIt’s amazing how expectations can change in a month.It seems like just yesterday the sky was the limit for a Wisconsin football team that many predicted would not only be a lock for the Rose Bowl, but also a national championship contender. The buzz surrounding this year’s team in the offseason made a third-straight trip to Pasadena seem inevitable. After all, for many of us, including myself and all those who are juniors and younger, the Rose Bowl appearances are all we have known in our time on campus.After two seasons filled with weekly drubbings of whichever team dared travel to Camp Randall – sometimes running up the score as high as 83-20 against Indiana in 2010 – the football experience is not what it once was.Barring a sudden return to its form from the past two years, Wisconsin fans are now more than content with a victory, a complete annihilation of the competition suddenly pushed to the back of their mind. What was once a yellow brick road leading to Pasadena now seems to have been traded in for a dirt path to a consolation bowl game.All of the anticipation and hope that goes along with supporting a title contender is now gone as many fans have already accepted that greatness may simply be out of reach this season.But what many Wisconsin football fans might be surprised to learn is the football team was not the only UW program that was supposed to have a great story this year.In fact, the UW women’s soccer team might just have the best story of them all.The Badgers were coming off of a mediocre 2011 campaign. They had finished the season 10-7-3 and earned a middle-of-the-pack fourth place finish in the Big Ten. Preseason expectations were non-existent.So when UW opened up its season and immediately began to clobber nonconference opponents, sometimes beating them by three, four or five goals (hey, that’s a lot for a sport that all too frequently ends 0-0), coaches noticed. And the unknown Badger team suddenly had a No. 20 ranking that soon turned into a No. 14 ranking. They even climbed as high as No. 13 before eventually settling at No. 14 in the most recent coaches poll. By the end of its nonconference season, the UW women’s soccer team had finished with a 6-1 record, their only loss coming against No. 2 UCLA in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the football team went 3-1 in its nonconference and lost to an unranked Oregon State after being held scoreless for over three quarters.So why do I bring this up? Because it shows that the football team was not UW’s only chance at nonconference domination or postseason glory this year, nor is it the only team worth investing interest in.As UW football continues to falter, other teams have their own great stories emerging, many of them just as good as the tale of a certain transfer quarterback from North Carolina State a year ago. You just have to know where to look for them.But football reigns supreme over all other fall sports, so when the Badgers are plowing through their opponents and winning games easily, it is easy to ignore what goes on in the other sports around campus, regardless of each Wisconsin sport’s respective success. As a result, many talented UW programs have slipped through the cracks.And while the idea that many of the unheralded sports on campus deserve more attention is not an original one, what is new is the fact that the football team’s poor play gives more leverage to that argument than ever before.Over the last few years, it was simple – and understandable – to shrug off non-revenue sports because UW had a great football program; winning was the standard and the expectations were high. But now, those aspirations no longer apply, and it might just be time that other programs are finally given their time in the spotlight. Who knows? You might even be surprised by the athletic talent UW has to offer beyond the confines of Camp Randall.The women’s soccer team is just one of a growing list of storylines worthy of students’ attention playing out all across Wisconsin’s many athletic programs this fall. Of course, there is the top-ranked men’s cross country team who is looking for its second-straight national championship, led by Olympian Mohammed Ahmed. And don’t forget about a women’s hockey team looking to prove itself worthy of a No. 2 preseason ranking.So if the prospect of the football team heading to Lincoln, Neb., Saturday has you worried about a potential defeat, don’t forget to also check in on the women’s soccer game against rival Minnesota Thursday.You never know, this UW team’s story might just be a special one.Nick is a junior majoring in journalism and political science. Do you think that football deserves all the attention on campus? Let him know what you think by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @npdaniels31.last_img

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