Rivalry Revisited: Wisconsin’s Most Important Matchups

University of Wisconsin-Madison

As sports fans, we are always drawn to the intense rivalries that exist between teams. Whether it’s the Yankees vs. Red Sox in baseball, Lakers vs. Celtics in basketball, or Bears vs. Packers in football, these matchups captivate us with their history and competitive spirit. One such rivalry that often doesn’t get the recognition it deserves is that between the University of Wisconsin-Madison and their conference competitors. In this article, we will take a closer look at some of the most important matchups in the history of Wisconsin sports, highlighting the fierce battles and memorable moments that have defined this historic rivalry.

From the early days of the Big Ten Conference to modern-day matchups, Wisconsin’s rivalry games have always been highly anticipated and fiercely contested. One of the oldest and most storied rivalries for Wisconsin is their annual matchup with the University of Minnesota, known as the Border Battle. This rivalry dates back to 1890 and is considered the longest-running rivalry in NCAA Division I football. Every year, the two teams clash for Paul Bunyan’s Axe, a tradition that started in 1948 when the Badgers upset the Gophers to claim the prized trophy. Since then, the two teams have battled it out for bragging rights and the coveted Axe.

Another longstanding rivalry for Wisconsin is their rivalry with the University of Iowa. This matchup, known as the Heartland Trophy game, began in 1894 and is one of the oldest in the Big Ten Conference. The rivalry between the two teams has been intense, with both teams claiming close victories over the years. However, one game that stands out in this rivalry is the 2010 matchup, where Wisconsin came out on top with a dramatic 31-30 victory. This was a defining moment for the Badgers, who went on to win the Big Ten Championship that year.

One of the most intense and storied rivalries for Wisconsin takes place on the ice, between the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Minnesota Duluth in men’s hockey. This rivalry, which started in the 1940s, has been fueled by the two teams’ proximity and their consistent rankings among the top hockey programs in the nation. The two teams have met over 200 times in regular-season play and have faced each other in the NCAA tournament on multiple occasions, making for some exciting and memorable matchups. In addition, this rivalry has produced some of the greatest players in Badgers’ history, such as Mark Johnson, Chris Chelios, and Ryan Suter, who have gone on to become NHL stars.

Another notable rivalry for Wisconsin is with the University of Notre Dame in football. This matchup, known as the Holy War, started in 1900 and has been filled with intense games and close scores. One of the most memorable games in this rivalry was the 2005 matchup, where Wisconsin upset then #6 ranked Notre Dame with a dramatic 17-10 victory. This game was considered a turning point for the Badgers, who went on to have a successful season and win the Capital One Bowl.

Another historic rivalry for Wisconsin takes place on the basketball court, between the University of Wisconsin and the University of Michigan. This rivalry started in 1909 and has been characterized by close games and fierce competition. In 2015, this rivalry was elevated when the two teams played in the Big Ten Tournament Championship, with Wisconsin coming out on top in a thrilling overtime victory. The Badgers then went on to make it to the NCAA National Championship game, cementing this matchup as one of the most important in Wisconsin sports history.

In addition to their conference rivals, Wisconsin also has notable rivalries with non-conference opponents. One such rivalry is with the University of Texas in football, known as the Border Bash. This intense matchup was reignited in 2019 when the two teams faced off in the NCAA tournament, with Wisconsin coming out on top in a dominant 10-3 win.

Another notable rivalry for Wisconsin takes place in men’s basketball, as the Badgers have a fierce competition with the University of Kentucky. This rivalry gained national attention in 2015 when the two teams met in the Final Four, with Wisconsin upsetting then-undefeated Kentucky 71-64, sending them to the National Championship game. This matchup has continued to be highly anticipated, with the two teams meeting multiple times in the NCAA tournament.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison has a rich history of intense and memorable rivalries. Whether it’s on the field, in the rink, or on the court, Wisconsin’s matchups with their conference and non-conference opponents have defined their athletic programs and have captivated sports fans for generations. As we eagerly await the next chapter in these historic rivalries, one thing is for sure – Wisconsin will always bring their competitive spirit and desire to come out on top in these important matchups.


University of Wisconsin-Madison,

Border Battle,

Heartland Trophy