Thursday, June 15, 2006

Lifelong Wisconsin Football Fan Loses Out On Badger Season Tickets, But Iowa Fan Website Makes Sure He'll See Nov. 11 Game At Kinnick Stadium

There's a happy ending to Bill Meunier's story.

Meunier is a longtime Wisconsin fan who will be able to attend the Badgers' football game Nov. 11 at Iowa, thanks to some very nice, and generous, Iowans.

Here's Doug Moe's story in the Capital Times of Madison that was sent to me by Jane Burns, a former newspaper colleague of mine in Des Moines:

Bill Meunier, the 54-year-old lifelong Badger fan from Milwaukee who got famous last week when his $550 donation to UW athletics did not result in a chance to buy football tickets, will be going to at least one Badger football game this coming season.

Meunier will be attending the Iowa-Wisconsin game on Nov. 11.

Note that the game is not at Camp Randall Stadium. Rather, Meunier and a guest will travel to historic Kinnick Stadium, for an all-expenses-paid football weekend in Iowa City, courtesy of donations from members of, an Iowa football fan website.

The inspiration for this comes from Aaron Comer, a 42-year-old marketing executive who lives in Coralville, adjacent to Iowa City.

Comer is a member of, and he first heard about Meunier and his plight after reading a link on the site to my colleague Todd Finkelmeyer's original story, which quickly gave UW athletics a public relations headache.

Meunier had sent in his $550, and, owing to some imprecise language in the UW promotional material, expected he would be given an opportunity to buy season football tickets. Because the demand for tickets was high, fewer than expected new opportunities for purchase were available, and Meunier was among those out of luck --and, originally, out $550.

Meunier earns $25,000 annually working for a Milwaukee non-profit, so 500 bucks is a lot of money to him.

When Comer, down in Iowa, read the story in the Capital Times, he checked the message board on and found a member posting that said: "We ought to reimburse that guy."

Comer thought it was a swell idea, and contacted his fellow Hawkeye fan to say so.

The man replied: "I was actually joking."

Comer wasn't laughing. Or maybe he was laughing. In any case, he was serious about following through on the idea.

Comer posted a message saying he was donating $100 to reimburse Meunier the cost of his UW athletics donation, and he welcomed other Hawkeye boosters to donate as well.

He was not prepared for the level of enthusiasm his plan generated.

"The response was overwhelming," Comer was saying Tuesday.

After an hour and a half, he had hit the goal of $550. But that wasn't all. Restaurants wanted to donate meals, hotels offered accommodation. "Offers were pouring in," he said.

Comer admits that his purpose was twofold. He genuinely wanted to help Meunier, a man "who has committed his life and career to helping others," in Comer's words. But he also saw a golden opportunity to tweak gridiron archrival UW. "It did occur to me that this could be pretty funny," Comer said.

It also occurred to Comer, by the middle of last week, that the money was pouring in but he had yet to ask Meunier if he was interested in coming to Iowa City.

"For all I knew," Comer said, "he could have been such a Badger fan that he'd tell me to stick it up my Hawkeye butt."

I thought immediately of a famous Madison incident in the 1970s, when strip club owner Al Reichenberger tried to pay the $200 bail of the Rev. Wayne Dillabaugh, who was in the Dane County Jail for excessively spanking a young boy at his church school. Dillabaugh had been a highly visible critic of Reichenberger and the Dangle Lounge. When Dillabaugh learned who had paid his bail, he ran back into the jail. He called it "funny money." Reichenberger's pal Eddie Ben Elson then petitioned the court to make Dillabaugh pay room and board since he refused to leave jail.

Bill Meunier did not have a Dillabaugh-like reaction. Though he was guarded at first, Comer said, Meunier quickly warmed to the idea and accepted the invitation to come to Iowa City.

Comer recalled: "He said, 'I'm almost ready to cry.' "

Meunier told Comer that UW had agreed to refund his original $550, so the decision was made to donate that amount from the Iowa fund to the Milwaukee chapter of the Senior Companion program.

Since as of Tuesday Comer had raised over $1,000, the rest of the donations will be used for game tickets and other expenses to ensure that Meunier has an appropriately high-rolling time in Iowa City.

There are plans for a Friday dinner at the Iowa River Power Company, a popular steakhouse overlooking the Iowa River in Coralville, and Comer said that the publisher of plans to take Meunier to the Wig & Pen, a pub that's a favorite with Hawkeye fans.

Meunier will also be given a full allocation of Hawkeye gear, including shirts and caps. "But of course he doesn't have to wear them," Comer said.

He chuckled. "We're not out to convert anybody."