The origin of the famous, rather infamous, tuba march around the stadium remains cloudy. The beginning of this stellar fourth quarter attraction stems well into the 1950’s. It has always been used to urge the crowd to get into the game and instill a final burst of spirit into the day’s festivities.
As the fourth quarter begins, the tubas line up single-file, begin an oom-pah-like interlude, and parade around the perimeter of the gridiron. The repertoire for this parade includes such favorites as Seper Fidelis, Beer Barrel Polka and On Wisconsin. The march concludes in front of the rest of the Wisconsin Band with the singing of “the finest fellows throughout the land are tubas in the Wisconsin Band!”
In 1971, amidst a few complaints that the tuba march was distracting from the game, athletic director Elroy Hirsch asked the band department to halt the tradition. The ensuing uproar matches any protests seen on the Madison campus that year. The press ran headlines bemoaning the loss. Tuba supporters, with placards protesting the ban, marched on State Street. Lapel buttons were manufactured and distributed demanding that the “Tubas Return to Camp Randall. “ Petitions were circulated gathering as many as 2,500 signatures in a one afternoon, and “The Friends of Tubas,” was formed in an attempt to have the march reinstated at all Badger games. It soon became evident that Hirsch would not be able to withstand the ground swell movement. In an unprecedented and more aptly, unmusical move, Hirsch appeared at the 1971 band banquet with tuba on shoulder, making unpleasant sounds, but assuring the band that the march would return in 1972.