MADISON, Wis. — Some might attribute the growth and success of the University of Wisconsin athletic department to the renaissance of the football program. But behind the scenes, athletics boosters provide the resources for those programs to thrive.
When it comes to boosters, few have provided as much stability as Ted Kellner, Chairman and CEO of Fiduciary Management in Milwaukee. In 1980, the UW alumnus founded FMI, an investment firm which handles over $25 billion in assets. His professional success allowed him to donate $10 million to his alma mater, which was used to construct faculty offices at Camp Randall which now bears his name.
Kellner said it was important for him to provide future generations of students and student-athletes with top-notch facilities so they could reach their academic and athletic goals.
“Just look around the campus,” Kellner said as he began to make mental note of other major donors. “The Kohl Center — [former U.S.] senator [Herb] Kohl gave $25 million, “Ab” Nicholas gave $10 million, our family at the time chipped in $2.5 or $3 million. That building was basically built with private support.”
And that support is seen in other facilities on campus as well. Boosters helped finance the weight room at Camp Randall and the McClain Center, which Kellner said was a big reason athletes come to Wisconsin.
So it’s no wonder the University has plans to provide over $105 million in upgrades across campus. The UW’s “Master Plan” is a document containing possible upgrades and repairs to major facilities over the next 10 years. Among those proposed upgrades is the addition of a $43.1 million sports performance complex on the south corner of the Kohl Center.
Those proposed upgrades don’t currently include any plans for a baseball complex, an idea Kellner says has a very slim chance of ever happening. But Kellner says if Wisconsin continues to operate its finances on the current trajectory, he envisions the Badgers being a national powerhouse for a long time to come.
The decision ends months of speculation about where he’d play out his final year of college eligibility. Wisconsin was among a handful of schools Zaire was reportedly considering last winter, though delays in his decision-making process seemed to lessen the interest Wisconsin had in entertaining the idea.
Zaire discussed the decision with GatorBait.net, telling the publication that competition was a contributing factor in choosing Florida.
For me, I didn’t want the challenge to dissipate at the end of the day. Coming from Notre Dame, you’re playing top games every week, and I wanted to continue that trend. I didn’t want to run from the challenge, I wanted to embrace the challenge.”
If it’s a challenge Zaire was looking for, he almost certainly would have had his hands full in the Badgers program trying to beat out incumbent Alex Hornibrook. Instead, Zaire will have the opportunity to battle a pair of freshmen (Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask) for playing time under center.
MADISON, Wis. — Former Wisconsin guard Josh Gasser appears to be calling it a career, following a blue carpet appearance at the sixth annual Wisconsin Sports Awards last Thursday.
“Unfortunately, my body isn’t healing right, so I might be moving back to Madison here pretty soon and entering the real world,” Gasser told reporters prior to the awards ceremony.
Gasser went undrafted in 2015 before signing with Lowen Braunschweig, a professional basketball team in Germany. He’s dealt with knee injuries throughout his collegiate and professional career, along with a sports hernia in 2016. He averaged 6.6 points and 18 minutes per game while playing overseas.
“It was nice to play professionally overseas for a little bit,” Gasser continued. “Unfortunately, the injuries kind of added up for me, having a few surgeries over the years, but it was definitely still a good experience.”
Gasser was underrated as a recruit out of Port Washington, Wis. but famously received a scholarship offer from Wisconsin after another recruit got in trouble with the law. Gasser went on to play 148 games with the Badgers, averaging 7.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game. But beyond the box score, Gasser’s contributions were more intangible, earning the nickname “Captain America” by his teammates.
Now that it appears his playing days are behind him, Gasser’s next venture will be skills camps around Wisconsin. He has three of them scheduled within the next month: May 21 at Westosha Central High School, June 10th at Cedarburg High School, and June 11th at Clinton High School. More information is available here.
In this week’s edition of Jake’s Take, sports director Jake Zimmermann says Badger men’s basketball player Nigel Hayes will be missed for a variety of reasons. Jake says the former Badger, who’s taking part in the NBA combine in Chicago this week, will go down in school history as one of the best Badgers on the court and one of the most influential off the court.
This week Hayes wrote what he called a commencement address on the Players Tribune titled “Don’t Just Shut Up and Play.” The forward gave a couple of final messages.. his biggest? Telling his class to never stay in your lanes. In other words, just because they are athletes doesn’t mean they get to talk about sports. Hayes argues he has the right to speak his mind about a variety of issues. Jake Zimmermann agrees.
To listen to this week’s Jake’s Take, click the link below.
PHILADELPHIA — The Green Bay Packers were expected to select a Wisconsin linebacker, but instead of T.J. Watt, it was teammate Vince Biegel.
Biegel was taken with the 108th pick to kick off the fourth round of the NFL Draft. In his four years with the Badgers, Biegel racked up 88 solo tackles, including 28.5 for a loss. He was a second team All-Big Ten selection his senior year and a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy.
Green Bay beefs up its pass rush once again, drafting its fourth defensive player of the 2017 Draft. General managerTed Thompson hinted that day three would be more focused on offensive selections. Green Bay will also have the 28th pick in round four.
PHILADELPHIA — Former Wisconsin offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk waited longer than he thought, but was drafted 32nd overall by the New Orleans Saints to wrap up round one of the 2017 NFL Draft. Fellow Badger T.J. Watt went two picks earlier to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
An all-state selection as a high schooler in Stevens Point, Wis., Ramczyk passed up a scholarship offer from Paul Chryst when he was coaching at Pitt so that he could attend a local technical college. He was offered a chance to play for Division III Wisconsin | Stevens Point where he was a two-time all-conference selection.
Ramczyk made the jump to the Division I level at Wisconsin, sitting out the 2015 season due to transfer rules, before making his impact felt in his 2016 campaign. He earned Associated Press All-American honors while starting every game for the Badgers.
Zaire will complete his undergraduate degree this spring, with graduation set for May 19-21. His preferred schools include Florida, Texas, and Wisconsin, recently adding Harvard to the mix as well. The report states that Zaire has set a deadline of two weeks to make his decision.
“He just doesn’t want to get messed over so he is going to be very, very careful, understanding that’s nothing is fully for sure but fairness,” the unnamed source said.
Whether Wisconsin would accept Zaire into the program remains to be seen, but the Badgers appear ready to roll with Alex Hornibrook, Karé Lyles, and Jack Coan for the time being. Any decision by Zaire to transfer to Wisconsin would be interesting, given reports from back in December that he was already leaning that way.
SEATTLE — Former University of Wisconsin guard Jordan Hill has finalized plans to transfer to Seattle University, a Jesuit Catholic College in the Western Athletic Conference.
Hill announced on Apr. 12 that he would be leaving the Badgers upon completing his degree this spring, enrolling elsewhere as a graduate transfer. While no specific reason was listed, it can be assumed playing time was a factor in his decision. While he averaged 15.6 minutes per game under the interim year of coach Greg Gard, his 2016-17 campaign saw that playing time decrease to 10.2 minutes per game.
Hill will be the eldest guard on the Redhawks roster, with redshirt seniors Manroop Clair and Brendan Westendorf playing out their final years of eligibility this past season.
GREEN BAY | It’s not often NFL veterans mention specific players they want their teams to draft. But Clay Matthews doesn’t mind letting everyone know that he wants to see former Wisconsin Badger T.J. Watt in a Packers uniform this season.
“I know mock draft boards have him potentially coming here which would be great!” said Matthews on Tuesday afternoon inside Lambeau Field.
The Packers started their offseason workout program in Green Bay on Tuesday. Matthews, who is beginning his 9th NFL season all with the Packers, said “it would be great if (T.J.) is even half the player his brother was.” Matthews referring to NFL star and former Badger J.J. Watt.
Matthews knows a little something about following in the footsteps of former NFL greats. His father, Clay Matthews Jr., was a four-time Pro Bowler with the Cleveland Browns. Matthews admits it will be tough for T.J. to follow in his brother’s footsteps. “I’m sure there’s pressure on him but if he’s anything like his brother he’ll have a drive and work ethic that can’t be matched.”
The NFL Draft begins on Thursday April 27, 2017 in Philadelphia. Matthews was drafted in round one of the 2009 Draft by the Packers with the 26th overall pick. He says his mom didn’t know he was a Packer until an hour or so after he was selected. “My mom actually thought it was the Patriots who drafted me so for about an hour and a half she thought I was going to New England,” said Matthews. “She was disappointed to find out I was going to Green Bay. But I think she’s come around.”
New England originally had the 26th overall pick in 2009. The Packers made a trade with the Patriots to acquire Matthews.