At Final Four, Bucky's band will play a song written for Minnesota


As University of Wisconsin fans head off to college basketball's Final Four this weekend, they'll be humming a tune that was written with Minnesota in mind.

Badger fans started singing their fight song, On Wisconsin, in 1909.

But according to the story that's been told for more than a century – and even appears in the University of Wisconsin archives – the composer of the tune intended to send it to the University of Minnesota.

William T. Purdy was living in a Chicago rooming house in 1909 when he heard that the U of M was offering a $100 prize to whomever could write the best song to get Gopher fans fired up at football games.

But his friend Carl Beck, who had gone to school in Madison the year before, heard the tune, came up with some lyrics, and convinced Purdy to send it to Wisconsin instead.

The song debuted at the 1909 gridiron contest between the Gophers and Badgers, with lyrics tailored for the Minnesota game:

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"On, Wisconsin!"

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Plunge right through that line!
* Run the ball 'round Minnesota,
A touchdown sure this time.
On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Fight on for her fame
Fight! Fellows! Fight!
And we will win this game.

The modern version replaces the Minnesota reference with "Run the ball right down the field."

On its page about the Minnesota Rouser, the U of M's school of music corroborates the 1909 fight song contest. The anthem "Hail! Minnesota" was deemed too dreary to rally sports fans. What started with an alum in the bleachers putting up a five dollar prize for a new fight song, snowballed quickly with help from the Minnesota Daily and the Minneapolis Tribune.

So even though William Purdy's tune made a detour to Madison, Minnesota received 93 songs from around the country and settled on the Rouser.

Written by Floyd M. Hutsell, the 27-year-old choir director at a Minneapolis church, it was first performed at the 1909 football game against Iowa.

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Is it better than On Wisconsin? Hard to answer that without school and state loyalties creeping into the verdict.

But for the second straight year, one of these songs will be played at college basketball's marquee event.

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