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Wisconsin players celebrated with Paul Bunyan’s Axe at the end of the game. When they tried to “chop down” one of the goal posts, the Gophers intervened.

MARLIN LEVISON • mlevison@startribune.com,

Guarding the goalpost: What's a rivalry without a little tiff?

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER
  • Star Tribune
  • November 24, 2013 - 7:52 AM

This is all new to Gary Andersen. He’s been Wisconsin’s coach for only 10 games, and while his Badgers have won the Axe for 10 straight years, Andersen has gotten to wield it only once.

But that Axe is certain to mean more to him from now on.

Arriving in the east end zone to discover his Badgers in a standoff with Gophers players who had surrounded the goal posts, Andersen got a close-up look at the intensity of the rivalry — and a lecture from a security officer, too.

“I don’t need somebody pointing a finger in my face when it’s their job to protect the kids and be the security for the stadium,” Wisconsin’s first-year coach said of his encounter with an officer after the Badgers beat Minnesota for the 10th consecutive time, 20-7. “Yeah, it makes me mad. It’s not right.”

But Andersen’s biggest gripe was with the Gophers players who prevented the Badgers from pretending to cut down the goal posts with the Axe, which the winning team has done, at home or on the road, for years. After conducting his postgame TV interview on the field while his team celebrated without incident in the west end zone, Andersen hurried over to the east, where the Gophers and Badgers were facing off. He and his coaches quickly intervened, pulling the Badgers toward their locker rooms, before the standoff grew beyond some unfriendly shouting and minor shoving.

He wasn’t happy that it happened, however.

“I just don’t think, myself, we turn around and deserve to get pushed out of the way. I don’t think that’s right. Whatever it is, it’s not right,” Andersen said. “The kids, in my opinion, were not out of control. Do we want them down there, do we want them to get in those situations? No, we don’t want to get in those situations. But you’re supposed to carry yourself like an adult in those scenarios.”

The Badgers insisted after the game that they respected the Gophers. But they believe the Gophers should respect tradition, too.

“Absolutely. It’s a tradition. We’ve done it for a long time, so for them to be sitting there, guarding their field-goal post ...” left guard Ryan Groy said, shaking his head. “No punches were thrown, everybody was just holding their ground. But it’s something that shouldn’t have happened. Tradition should have gone on.”

“It’s happened as long as I’ve been alive — you go to both goal posts,” agreed linebacker Chris Borland. “They kind of crashed our party. But that’s all right — they should be mad.”

Andersen suggested that the teams need to determine what proper etiquette is before the postgame tension escalates.

“I don’t know that much about that part of the tradition, to be honest with you. I’ve seen it on video. If that’s part of the tradition, if that’s the way it’s been, I suppose both sides are aware of that and understand it,” he said. “If it’s not, I guess we should stop it and figure out what we’re going to do at the end of these games.”

Maybe, Groy suggested, the Gophers need a refresher course. “Obviously they haven’t done it in a while,” he said of the post-chopping tradition, “so they don’t really know how it goes.”

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