Few Wisconsin fans realize what happens behind the scenes of a Badger football or basketball game. Sure, there are the players, the coaches and those smiling faces helping you find your seat. But what about the people selling food, the security guards or the booming voice announcing the game
Mike Mahnke is the public address announcer and voice of the Wisconsin Badgers football and men's basketball games. A 1984 graduate of the UW, Mahnke believes he's blessed with the best possible job for a Badger fan.
"It's a lot of fun," Mahnke said. "I've got the best seat in the house and the best of both worlds for work and fun. I'm the lucky fan, the lucky guy who's a great fan of both (football and basketball)."
Now entering his seventh year as an announcer for football and his eighth year for men's basketball, Mahnke began his Wisconsin career announcing women's basketball games in 1991. After three years honing his skills, Mahnke took the reigns of his current position after the unfortunate loss of the legendary Jack Rein. The former long time football and men's basketball announcer passed away in 1994, soon after the gridiron Badgers won their first Rose Bowl.
Picking up the 1993-94 men's basketball season halfway through the year didn't faze Mahnke, but he remembers his first football game in 1994 with special fondness.
"Wisconsin played Colorado and it was a nationally televised game," Mahnke said. "We were getting absolutely whipped. My wife was pregnant and it was her due date. I was nervous enough for the game," he continued. "She asked where she would be safe and I told her to sit in the stands, because I could see Meriter Hospital from the pressbox. That way if she needed me, I wouldn't be too far away!"
Mahnke and his soon-to-arrive family successfully made it through the game and started what would become his successful career as the voice of the Wisconsin Badgers.
But Mahnke doesn't just pass on scores and plays. In recent years, UW fans will remember his unique and catchy way of announcing players' names. Who can forget the way Mahnke yelled "Ronnnnnn Daaaayyyyynnnnneeeeee!!" Or more recently the names of "Matt Uuu-Nertle" and the eraser, "Eeee-Raaasmusss James!!" booming across Camp Randall Stadium.
Badger fans love it and Mahnke's glad he does his part to make the games so enjoyable for his fellow Wisconsin fans. He credits a great UW staff for helping with announcements. Joined by a group of spotters and Wisconsin staff in the press box, Mahnke believes he's part of a special team bringing news and announcements to the crowds. Badger booster Luke Collins handles the special announcements, while spotters Tom Knoche and John Buhler keep Mahnke in the game with offense, defense and statistics.
"There's a lot more going on than what a fan sees," Mahnke, a retired reserve U.S. Army Military Intelligence captain, likes to explain for his fellow fans. "You get a deeper understanding of what goes on in running an event. There's an aspect of camaraderie and a neat sense of teamwork."
Mahnke joins a different team outside of Camp Randall and the Kohl Center as the Vice President of Creative for Roundhouse Marketing and Promotion, Inc., here in Madison. His company specializes in building national brands through promotions for clients such as Eastman Kodak, SC Johnson and Kraft Foods.
When he's not helping Wisconsin fans cheer on the Badgers or aiding his clients through national promotional campaigns, this former chapter president of UW's Delta Upsilon fraternity enjoys spending time with his family.
Mahnke's wife, Tonia, is also a captain in the US Army Reserve. These busy parents have three kids, Allie, Ty and Bethany and like to travel to Door County to relax. The Mahnkes attend Holy Cross Lutheran church in Madison where Mike joins the lay ministry in "just about everything", a leadership role he pleasantly says keeps him busy.
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