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Wisconsin Football Must Show Patience, Embrace the Journey



Wisconsin Football; Badgers Head Coach Luke Fickell
Sep 2, 2023; Madison, Wisconsin, USA; Wisconsin Badgers head coach Luke Fickell calls out during the second quarter against the Buffalo Bulls at Camp Randall Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

MADISON, Wis. – In the wake of a frustrating 31-22 loss to Washington State, Luke Fickell and the Wisconsin football program (1-1, 0-0 B1G) had no choice but to take a long, hard look in the mirror. 

Wisconsin invested heavily in the off-season, securing Fickell as their head coach, retaining an experienced roster, and making significant additions through the transfer portal.

Why? Because the University of Wisconsin and its athletic department wanted to break through the threshold and become a top-tier program.

But Saturday’s loss served as a reminder that the road to greatness might be more of a journey than a destination for the Badgers.

Like It or Not … Wisconsin Football Is a Program in Transition

First-year head coaches are often granted a grace period, a honeymoon of sorts, to establish their systems, culture, and identity within a program. 

That luxury, however, is a fleeting concept when you have a resume as accomplished as Luke Fickell. The pressure to win now is palpable, a sentiment shared by the coaching staff and the players.

“I won’t blame it on being the first year of our new offense or defense,” Fickell said after the loss to Washington State. “We have the talent to win, and nothing should hold us back. We need to put our players in positions to succeed, and that responsibility falls on me.”

Coach Fickell doesn’t buy into the notion that revamping a program might take more than a single season. But, the reality is that building a new identity and implementing a new offensive and defensive scheme takes time, even with a coach of Fickell’s caliber. 

It’s a process that requires patience, a commodity often in short supply in the college football landscape. 

Wisconsin Football Has Plenty of Talent; That’s Why It’s So Frustrating

Luke Fickell has made it unequivocally clear that he’s here to win now, not tomorrow or next year — and that the objective for the Wisconsin football program is to win championships

And it’s easy to understand why. 

The Badgers boast an abundance of talent on both sides of the ball, enough to compete at a high level in the Big Ten and beyond. 

UW has one of the nation’s most talented RB tandems, a high-profile quarterback transfer, potentially the best WR room in my lifetime, and an offensive line full of blue-chip recruits. That’s one hell of a starting point.

However, what becomes frustrating for the Badgers and its devoted followers is that the results and execution on the field have yet to match the potential on paper. The losses, like the recent one to Washington State, bear a striking resemblance to the struggles of previous seasons. Mental mistakes, missed opportunities, and a failure to close out games has left Wisconsin football fans yearning for more.

At some point, moral victories won’t be enough. The Wisconsin Badgers will need to produce tangible results, and in a perfect world, that’ll start happening this season. The challenge, however, is to recognize that building a championship program isn’t an overnight endeavor.

Final Thoughts 

Perhaps, in this era of immediate gratification, it’s essential to remember that sometimes the path to success isn’t linear. Fickell’s past at Cincinnati serves as a testament to this notion.

In his first season, the Bearcats finished with a lackluster 4-8 record, with several double-digit losses. However, they rebounded in the following season to achieve an impressive 11-2 record, proving that transformation can happen quickly, but it still takes time.

The Wisconsin football team’s expectations for instant success are understandable, given their recent history of competitiveness. But, establishing a new identity is a process that could take longer than we initially anticipated.

While Fickell is determined to expedite the re-tooling process, it’s worth acknowledging that more trials and tribulations may lie ahead for Wisconsin football.

Ultimately, it’s a balancing act between the urgency to win now and the patience required to lay the foundation for sustained success. Wisconsin has the talent to win in the present, but the results have yet to follow.

As frustrating as that may be, perhaps it’s a sign that the Badgers are in the midst of a transformational period that will ultimately propel them into the next tier of college football programs.

In Luke Fickell, Wisconsin has a leader who won’t settle for mediocrity, and that might be precisely what they need to reach their sky-high expectations, even if it takes a little longer than initially hoped for.

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Dillon Graff is a Substack Newsletter Best Selling Author and the Owner of, your go-to source for in-depth coverage of the Wisconsin Badgers. His work has been featured in top media publications like USA Today, Bleacher Report, Verbal Commits, B5Q, Saturday Blitz, and Fansided.