Behind The Scenes

This Is SportsCenter: Badger talks

Saturday night at 8 p.m. on ABC, Nebraska makes its Big Ten debut as guest of the University of Wisconsin.

The historic clash of the No. 7-ranked Badgers and No. 8 Cornhuskers will have plenty of pre-game pageantry — College GameDay will kickoff from Madison at 9 a.m. ET on ESPNU, moving to ESPN at 10 a.m.

And Bucky Badger, Wisconsin’s mascot, makes his debut in a “This Is SportsCenter” [“TISC”] ad, taped at ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol in August.

What’s it like becoming a part of the iconic advertising series?

Sam Albiero is entering his third year in the Badger suit. The senior from Milwaukee was at a local “mascot camp” this summer with Kevin Pechumar — the other “senior Bucky” on the seven-Badger squad.

Josette Scheer, the Wisconsin Spirit Squad Director, sent each of them a text message.

“Come find me. I need to talk to you,” it read.

“We both thought we were in trouble,” said Albiero.

Instead, Scheer explained that the Badger was being selected to appear in the latest “TISC” ad.

“We were more than excited,” said Albiero, who won a coin toss with Pechumar to determine which of them would co-star with SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm in the ad.

“I’m a huge sports nut, watching SportsCenter every time the TV’s on. The ‘This Is SportsCenter’ commercials are just the bread and butter of ESPN,” said botany major Albiero, who hopes to be accepted to dental school next fall.

“They’re really subtle, humorous and very relatable to every sports fan.’

Albiero, 22, said it took about 20 takes to get the ad — it revolves around Bucky Badger looking at Wilma T. Wildcat’s photo albums on Facebook — shot.

“The first few were funny and people were laughing. It took a while to perfectly fine tune it,” he said.

“I think we nailed it.”

Albiero’s favorite “TISC” ads include the Arnold Palmer ad in which the golf legend makes his famous lemonade concoction before an admiring entourage in the ESPN cafeteria, and Steve Irwin’s encounter with the University of Florida’s gator mascot in a hallway.

Albiero’s favorite ESPN personality is SportsCenter anchor and ESPN Radio host Scott Van Pelt.

“He’s a huge fan of Madison, so I’m a little biased,” Albiero said.

“On multiple occasions, he’s called Madison the greatest college sports town in the nation. He’s got nothing but good things to say about us.”

Thus far in his tenure as Bucky Badger, Albiero has not had any violent encounters with rival mascots.

“In my era, our biggest rival, school-wise, is probably Minnesota. The Golden Gopher’s their mascot, but out of the suit, we’re practically the same person,” Albiero said.

“We’re great friends.”

What are his thoughts on other traditional Big Ten rivals?

“Purdue Pete. . . he’s got a big head. . . .

“And in the past few years, Ohio State has been phenomenal. So Brutus Buckeye has always been No. 1 on Bucky’s list. Besides that, no one else really stands a chance, so we don’t see anyone else as a threat.”

Apparently, that sentiment extends to Big 10 newcomer Nebraska and its ginormous mascots Herbie Husker and Lil’ Red.

Does Bucky have any advice for his newest rivals’ venture into 80,000-seat Camp Randall Stadium?

“Besides a big welcome, [I wish them] best of luck, because they’re going to need it.”

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