Klotsche Krazies

The student section at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is called the Klotsche Krazies. They attend as many athletic events as possible, leading the cheers of the crowd and existing as the unofficial 6th man in basketball games, and emotional support for all Panther squads.

The Klotsche Krazies are all students who join for the love of UWM and the love of the game.

So why are we the Klotsche Krazies? The men’s basketball team doesn’t play in the Klotche Center anymore, they play in the U.S. Cellular Arena, and our most successful sport, soccer, plays at Engelmann Field. So why do we cling to the Klotsche Krazies name?

I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is no. The Klotsche Krazies are not a rip-off of the Cameron Crazies at Duke. We have our own history, and our own cheers. This page exists to educate those who are just arriving on campus and those who do not know the story behind our name.

To first explain the name of the student section, we need to introduce the namesake. J. Martin Klotsche, whose parents immigrated to America from Germany when he was very young, grew up teaching. He eventually ended up at the University of Wisconsin as a PhD student in the 1930s, decades before they would add “-Madison” to the end of their name. The history professor would be highly popular when he moved to Milwaukee to be in the faculty at the Milwaukee State Teachers College, the predecessor of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

When he became the President of the school in 1946, he realized there were serious problems facing the city and the school. The city needed a full-fledged university, not some liberal arts college that pumped out teachers like an assembly line. So Klotsche fought for ten years against the bureaucrats in Madison who disliked the idea of having another 4-year public doctoral-granting University in the state.

Without Klotsche, UWM never comes into existence. His prowess in politics and good guy demeanor finally crumbled the UW established order in Madison. They buckled, and the school that we know and love became reality.

In 1956, the school was rechristened the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and would become the epicenter of education in the city of Milwaukee and southeast Wisconsin.

Klotsche’s fight was not over, never over. His attempts to put UWM on the map as a top-flight school were always met with obstruction by the Badger faithful in the capitol. Indeed, the University in Madison has gained many things that were first requested by J. Martin Klotsche at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He wanted a top-of-the-line academic university, with a powerhouse athletics program that would rival the big brother in Madison.

You’ll never read it in a book, or in a newspaper, but UW never wanted UWM. It was never explicit in any form of record, but the people in Madison were very frightened that the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee would become to them what Michigan State was to Michigan. And the monopoly on higher education they would not give up easily.

Near his retirement, Klotsche finally won one of the biggest victories in his tenure as Chancellor, and that was to secure the future of the athletic facility on campus that now bears his name. When the Klotsche Center opened in 1977, it was state-of-the-art, better than any other collegiate facility in the state.

Where the name Klotsche Krazies comes from is a bit tougher to track, but we know certain facts.

The exact date is unknown, and may never be known without intense research into UWM Post and university archives. Some time in the early 1970s, there was a student movement in the university to eliminate the segregated athletics fee, which at the time was seven dollars, and reallocate it to the arts program. This was a small fee, even for that time, and was arguably not enough to sustain a successful athletics program. The students believed sports should be cut, and UWM should be without them in order to have a better fine arts program.

Chancellor Klotsche fought the movement. One prominent member of the opposition, either a student or faculty member it is not clear, called Klotsche “crazy” if he believed the athletics program could be successful.

Not to be outdone, the student fans attended the next basketball game against Illinois at Chicago-Circle (now rival UIC) prepared to make a statement. One fan held up a sign at the game that read, “We Believe. We’re Klotsche Crazy.”

The group was born. The group of students, unorganized but united, began attending games as “Klotsche’s Crazies” at old Baker Fieldhouse, on the spot of what now is Lubar Hall.

The 70’s would see changes in the university’s athletics. Football was cut in 1974, despite finally turning the corner and becoming a successful program at the beginning of the decade. The entire program dropped out of NCAA Division I at the end of the decade, powered by a scandal involving basketball coach Bob Gottlieb (whose son you might recognize as ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb). But after all the losses, after all the turmoil, that sense of unity lived on.

Klotsche’s Crazies survived the budget cut proposal. Athletics kept the segregated fees. The Crazies continued to attend games in Baker Fieldhouse, and in 1977 the brand new Klotsche Center. Now the Crazies were rewarded for years of supporting their leader, the man who made UWM a reality and fought and clawed to make that school the best institution he could with the limited resources they got from Madison.

Klotsche’s Crazies in the Klotsche Center became the Klotsche Krazies.

The man retired before the arena that bears his name was open. He published his memoirs, Confessions of an Educator, in 1985, and passed away in 1995 at age 87 in his home in Oostburg. The Krazies mourned.

While our games have been moved many times since the Krazies were born: first in Baker Fieldhouse, then the Klotsche Center, then to the MECCA, back to the Klotsche Center, and once again to the MECCA under the new name U.S. Cellular Arena.

But the student section isn’t named after a building. Buildings come and go, but the man and his legacy will live on forever, in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and its community.

We are the Klotsche Krazies.


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