The origin of this famous fourth quarter attraction stems from the 1950’s. It has always been used to pump up the crowd and instill a final burst of spirit into the day’s festivities. As fourth quarter begins, the tubas line up single-file, begin an “oom pah”-like interlude, and parade around the perimeter of the gridiron. Repertoire for this parade includes favorites such as “Semper Fidelis,” “Beer Barrel Polka,” and “On, Wisconsin!” The march concludes in front of the entire 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 distributed, demanding that the “Tubas Return to Camp Randall.” Petitions were circulated gathering as many as 2500 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 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.