Itâ€™s hard to argue that we arenâ€™t in the golden age of Wisconsin Badgers athletics. The menâ€™s basketball team is at its pinnacle, the football team continues to be a Big Ten title contender and many of the non-revenue sports are also at the top of their games.
With that in mind, our staff has gotten around to wondering amongst ourselves just who are the greatest Badgers of all-time. So, weâ€™ve decided to put it all to an internal vote and over the next few months weâ€™ll be counting down the 50 greatest Wisconsin Badgers of all-time!
How did we get to this list? Who is on it? Well, to be eligible one must have played, coached or been a member of the athletic administration (or a combination of them) during any point in time throughout the course of Badgers athletics.
Yes, we went all the way back to 1889 to scour the rolls of all sports and all eras for our list. The only exclusion â€” current players.
With that said, itâ€™s time to get to the list….starting with our debut member of the “50 Greatest Badgers of All-Time” â€” a man with a cup named after him.
No. 50 â€” Randy Jablonic, Rowing
When you say Wisconsin menâ€™s rowing, there is but one name to really talk about â€” Randy Jablonic. Not only was he a member of the crew team as a student-athlete in the late 1950â€™s, but heâ€™s easily the most influential coach on the modern era of crew in the Midwest and nationally too.
Jablonicâ€™s career as a student-athlete saw him be part of the crew team that won a national championship in 1959. However, his greatest contributions would come in his post-graduate career.
He would join the coaching staff under his mentor and coachÂ Norm Sonju, starting as the freshman coach in 1960. Jablonic was then tabbed to be Sonjuâ€™s replacement just eight years later.
It was that move by the UW athletic administration that made the modern crew team what it is. Jablonic would lead the crew team from 1968 until his retirement from the sport in 1995. That 27-year coaching tenure is the longest in Wisconsin crew history, and he would go on to win four national championships in his time at the helm of UWâ€™s crew.
Just how important was Jablonic to the sport overall? He nearly became the coach of the United States crew team for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic games, and today there is the Jablonic Cup dual between Wisconsin and Boston University.
Crew, both menâ€™s and womenâ€™s have never had a bigger champion than Jablonic. He went to bat during the start of the womenâ€™s crew program and happily shared the boathouse with the womenâ€™s team from the beginning.
More importantly though, he went to bat during the harsh budget cuts that happened in 1991 and kept the sport from the chopping block on both sides with a successful fundraising campaign.
So, the next time you hear about a menâ€™s or womenâ€™s boat (or team) winning a national championship, just remember it was all made possible by one Randy Jablonic and his tireless support of the sport at the University of Wisconsin.