Rose Bowl dividing loyalties of Madison grad studying at Stanford
JANESVILLE Stephen Erlien’s standard garb on the Stanford University campus is a ragged, old UW-Madison Badgers hat and a Stanford jersey.
Erlien graduated from Janesville Parker High School and UW-Madison before heading to the West Coast for graduate studies. He admitted he feels loyalties to the Badgers as well as the Stanford Cardinal.
Now, he has to make up his mind. The Wisconsin football team faces Stanford in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
It’s not just a bowl game. It’s “the granddaddy of them all.” It’s not just another Rose Bowl for the Badgers. It’s the third trip in a row. The Badgers lost the first two.
Stanford’s last trip to the Rose Bowl was in 2000, when the Badgers beat the Cardinal 17-9.
Erlien has much to consider as he searches his feelings about the two teams. He knows a few members of the Stanford team from church and wants to see them do well, “but I really don’t want to see the Badgers lose three Rose Bowls in a row.”
He has seen the Badgers’ record-setting Monte Ball run the ball, but he also likes Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor, the school’s all-time rushing leader.
The interview with Erlien went back and forth as he considered.
“I really don’t have an allegiance either way,” he said at one point. “Is that a cop out? I don’t know.”
Stephen is the son of Mike and Karen Erlien of the town of Rock. They are a Badger family. Erlien’s brother Alex also is a UW-Madison grad.
And Erlien was an ardent Badger football fan while in Madison. He attended all the home games in his first three years.
Erlien hadn’t revealed which way he was leaning to his family earlier this week when he talked to The Gazette. He’ll be at home for the game.
“I think they’re going to be watching my expression because I say I’m pretty even-handed, but when you see someone’s face, you can pretty much tell which way your allegiances go,” he said.
Erlien is in his fourth year at Stanford University, studying self-driving vehicles as he pursues a Ph.D. in engineering. He attended all the Stanford home games in his first two years there and continues to go when he can.
“It’s a much smaller school, but they still have a pretty good football Saturday, so it’s fun,” he said.
The Badgers are bigger drinkers. Stanford doesn’t feature any two-story beer bongs on game day, he said. Stanford’s cheers are also “classier,” with none of the vulgar verbal battles between the student sections during the game.
“I do miss ‘Jump Around,’ though,” he said referring to the House of Pain song that gets most people at Camp Randall jumping up and down between the third and fourth quarters.
Stanford fans like to tailgate as much as the Badgers, but the West Coasters will set up tables with wineglasses, a rare sight among Badger tailgaters, Erlien noted.
Erlien likes his football, but he sees this Rose Bowl as different from all other games. He gets to watch two teams he has known and loved competing on the same field.
“It’s kind of like watching two games,” he said, which doubles the pleasure.
Erlien’s dad told The Gazette that Stephen would still be accepted as a part of the family if he roots for Stanford.
“We’re pretty open. … We understand,” Mike said.
Mike, by the way, thinks the Badgers are the better team, even though most odds makers are picking Stanford.
As for Stephen, he has made his choice. In an email after his Gazette interview, he wrote: “It’s OK if you reveal my Rose Bowl allegiances are slightly West Coast biased, but make sure to emphasize the decision wasn’t easy.”