Today's entry in the pantheon of unlikely rivalries comes thanks to the Badgers, the Tar Heels, former Wisconsin athletic director Pat Richter and some comments North Carolina coach Roy Williams made all the way back in the year 2000.
I have to say: This is a new one on me.
Apparently that's not the case in Madison, Wi. During his weekly appearance on Madison ESPN Radio affiliate, the former Badgers athletic director, shall we say, expressed his displeasure with the Big Ten/ACC Challenge schedule, and in particular, the fact Wisconsin is making the trip to Chapel Hill for the two teams' first-ever regular season matchup next November.
In essence, Richter said UNC won't travel to Madison because Williams is scared of being booed for derisive comments he made about Wisconsin's performance during the 2000 NCAA tournament. Richter's also upset that this matchup hasn't happened sooner, and at a time when North Carolina didn't have a loaded team on its campus.
"It still is a joke," Richter said. "I know darn well that you'll never get Roy Williams here. He won't come to Wisconsin. He's afraid the people are going to boo him and everything else. I think that's all bogus."
What did Williams say to elicit such a response? After the then-Kansas coach's 99-98 win early in the 2000-2001 season, Williams cracked wise about uptempo, "skilled" basketball, which Wisconsin fans apparently took as a dig on the 2000 team's slow-paced style under former coach Dick Bennett. Earlier that year, in the 2000 Final Four, Wisconsin lost to Michigan State in a game that featured a 19-17 halftime score.
"Are you going to tell me you don't like this more than 19-17 at halftime," Williams said. "I'm not a nuclear physicist, but you make the choice. We're trying to make it a game of basketball skills, not a weight room contest."
Wisconsin, and Richter in particular, have yet to forget the verbal jab. Wisconsin fans booed Williams in 2002 during an NCAA tournament regional at the Kohl Center, and in 2005 Badgers players admitted they were still seeking some measure of revenge against the Tar Heels coach. Clearly, Richter hasn't forgotten a thing.
"They should have been at our place a long time ago and it never happened," said Richter. "And here we go again — we've got to go down there when they're supposed to have all these horses back, and it's going to be a tough road for us. Who's going to benefit but Roy Williams?
"There are times we should have had them at our place, and it never happened," Richter said. "And I think Roy Williams squeals. He's never really had to pay his dues, so to speak, like a Bo Ryan and Dick Bennett."
I write the following words with great trepidation, because I don't want to be the next entry on the Wisconsin public enemies list ... but guys, come on. Really? This thing happened a decade ago. Let it go, you know?
Plus, it's not like Williams insulted the honor of hardworking, virtuous Wisconsinites everywhere. It's not like he questioned Brett Favre's abilities as a pocket passer (a remark that would be taken much differently these days, of course). He merely made a crack about slow-paced basketball. Because, you know, Wisconsin played slow-paced basketball. It still does. So what? When you win, you win. You don't get points for tempo or style. Why should Badgers fans care if their team's perennially slow approach isn't some other coach's cup of tea? Who cares?
Honestly, I don't get it. But hey, if this means Wisconsin's game at North Carolina next fall is even more intense than expected, well, that's fine by me. Let the long-dormant Battle of Tempo Preferences begin!
(Hat tip: The Dagger)