Gophers fans of a certain vintage often get nostalgic about the good old days when Minnesota routinely dominated Wisconsin in football, and they get equally sour thinking about the more recent past when the Badgers have turned the tables.
This consternation over the border rivals in football has tended to far exceed the consternation in men’s basketball, with the perception being that the recent gap in football is wider than it is in men’s basketball.
In reality, though, the Badgers — once dominated by the Gophers in both sports — have pretty well turned the tables in each. And when it comes to men’s basketball, really there is one person to blame or thank depending on what side you are on: Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, who announced Monday (in what should be much to the relief of Gophers fans) that he is retiring after the 2015-16 season.
Let’s take a brief tour through the past four-plus decades of history:
• From 1971 until Jan. 10, 1980, the Gophers defeated the Badgers 17 consecutive times. They gave Bucky two of the next three, then went on another seven-game winning streak for an overall stretch of 25 Minnesota wins to only two Wisconsin wins.
• After that, things very much evened out. From the mid-1980s until the early 2000s, the Gophers held a 17-14 edge over the Badgers. Dick Bennett, who took over as coach in 1995 and lasted until his retirement three games into the 2000-01 season, should get a decent amount of the credit for helping to level the rivalry.
• Ryan was hired as the Badgers coach in 2001. Since then, he has matched wits with four different Gophers coaches and compiled an overall mark of 20-6 against Minnesota — including victories in 12 of his first 13 games against the Gophers. I have Ryan down for an 8-1 mark against Dan Monson, 2-0 against interim Jim Molinari, 6-4 against Tubby Smith (who did have a three-game winning streak to his credit) and 4-1 so far against Richard Pitino.
Ryan said in a statement that he hopes longtime assistant Greg Gard will take over for him after this season. That type of coach-in-waiting succession has played to mixed reviews (at best) over the years, so we’ll see what direction Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez wants to go next year.
What we do know for now is this: the basketball rivalry has been about as lopsided as the football rivalry, and the Gophers should have a better shot against a new Wisconsin basketball coach than they did against a guy who turned the Badgers into a national power.