Camp Randall 100: Ron Dayne

Photo collage of images of Wisconsin football running back Ron Dayne
Photo collage of images of Wisconsin football running back Ron Dayne

The Camp Randall 100 honors a prestigious group of 100 people who shaped the first century of Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin Athletics will reveal a new honoree every day from May 24 until the Badgers’ 2017 opening game on Sept. 1 against Utah State.

“That was probably the best memory. It was crazy to see them all in the stadium like that.”

— Ron Dayne on the unforgettable sight of all of the
fans at Camp Randall Stadium waving “33” flags


Photo of Wisconsin football running back Ron Dayne playing in 1998
Ron Dayne

Ron Dayne has listened to countless tales of recall from Wisconsin fans who say they witnessed his final career game at Camp Randall Stadium.

“Almost any kind of story you can think about, I’ve heard it,” he said.

History was made on three major fronts on Nov. 13, 1999.

Not only did the Badgers clinch their second straight Big Ten Conference title and Rose Bowl berth during a 41-3 thumping of Iowa, they claimed their first outright league championship since 1962.

Dayne, meanwhile, became the all-time leading rusher in NCAA history and essentially secured the Heisman Trophy.

A senior tailback from Berlin, New Jersey, Dayne set the prestigious record on his 14th carry, a 31-yard slash-and-dash off right guard in the second quarter. He finished the day with 216 yards and one touchdown on 27 carries, moving him past Ricky Williams of Texas on the Division I-A career rushing list.

Dayne went on to become the second Heisman winner in UW history, joining Alan Ameche (1954).

The Badgers, meanwhile, went on to subdue Stanford 17-9 on New Year’s Day 2000 and become the first team in Big Ten history to post consecutive victories in the Rose Bowl.

Dayne will tell you that his favorite memory of that keepsake day came when the scoreboard clock hit zeroes and a surprise, emotional celebration kicked into gear.

His favorite story from a fan came years later.

For the record, there were 79,404 spectators on hand at Camp Randall to see Ron Dayne make history in his penultimate outing at UW. All were given white towels, each bearing No. 33 in red numerals, as souvenirs.


Photo of Wisconsin football student fans cheering for Ron Dayne with paint on their chests spelling out "DAYNE" and commemorative "33" towels


Dayne will never forget the sight of all those towels being waved in triumph.

“That was probably the best memory,” he said. “It was crazy to see them all in the stadium like that.”

Dayne didn’t know the towels had been given out. Nor did he know that “33 DAYNE” had been installed on the Camp Randall façade before the display was unveiled during a postgame ceremony.

“I was so focused on getting the record and beating Iowa that I didn’t even realize that,” Dayne said. “I didn’t see them until they put them up.”

Does Dayne have any of the keepsake towels?

“Oh, you know it,” he said with a chuckle.

“I just knew that when I got close (to the record) it had to be a nicer run. Not fall over and get one yard.”

— Ron Dayne

Dayne played 47 career games for the Badgers and holds all-time program records for rushing yards (7,125), carries (1,220), 100-yard rushing performances (33) as well as 200-yard outings (14).

Of those 100-yard efforts, 17 came at Camp Randall.

Of the 71 career touchdowns that Dayne scored, 31 came at Camp Randall.

Dayne no longer holds the NCAA career rushing record, but some question the legitimacy of the all-time list.

The NCAA didn’t count bowl games when Dayne played, so he has 6,397 yards in the national record book.

The NCAA changed that assessment after the 2002 season, so San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey — thanks to four bowl appearances — eclipsed Dayne last season. If you credit Dayne with his bowl totals — 728 in four appearances — he would still hold the record.

Dayne remembers the milestone-setting run vividly, starting with the fact fullback Chad Kuhns predicted it in the huddle.

“He said, ‘Ronnie, you’re going to break on this one,’” Dayne recalled. “Everybody in the huddle was like, ‘All right.’”

The play, 23 Zone, was designed to go left, but Dayne had the option of hitting the first hole he saw. That was at right guard.

Kuhns stymied the first defender, allowing Dayne a fairly wide berth to work with. Dayne juked safety Shane Hall and ran through cornerback Joe Slattery before the other Iowa cornerback, Tarig Homan, pulled Dayne down in front of the UW bench.

Dayne needed 23 yards to break the record and got 31, which fit his pregame criteria for aesthetics.

“I just knew that when I got close (to the record) it had to be a nicer run,” he said. “Not fall over and get one yard.”


Photo of Wisconsin football running back Ron Dayne racing the ball down field against Iowa in 1999
Wisconsin football running back Ron Dayne races the ball down field against Iowa in 1999


Years later, Dayne said starting left guard Bill Ferrario came up and showed him a picture of the milestone run. Ferrario wasn’t in it. His backup, Rob Roell, was.

Dayne learned then that Ferrario missed the record-setting run because he had to use the restroom.

When the game was over, a memorable snapshot came to life on the home sideline when Dayne and UW coach Barry Alvarez shared a long bear hug. Alvarez had come out of the press box, where he’d been exiled following knee replacement surgery in early October.

It was a full-circle moment.

When Dayne was being recruited out of Overbrook High School in 1995, he mentioned being swayed by the strong bond he forged with Alvarez. That included a goodbye hug after Alvarez finished his home visit with Dayne and his family.

Now Dayne and Alvarez are College Football Hall of Fame inductees; Alvarez in 2010 and Dayne in ’13.

As the years have passed, Dayne said he’s heard from countless fans who claim they were there when he set the NCAA rushing record.

“It’s pretty cool to hear their stories and things,” he said.

Yes, Dayne has a favorite.

He explained how a guy told him that he’d left his pregnant wife at the hospital to be at the UW-Iowa game at Camp Randall.

“He said he was there the whole time with her and she wasn’t having contractions, so he said, ‘I’m going to go to the game,’” Dayne recounted.

Talk about your slippery slopes.

“She had the baby while he was at the game,” Dayne said.


The last Dayne heard, the couple was still married.

The story resonates with Dayne to this day for a variety of reasons, but one stands out.

The couple named the boy “Dayne.”

Thin photo collage of images of Wisconsin football running back Ron Dayne