Valuing Blugold spirit as a long time fan and faculty

Taking a closer look at community members supporting the Blugolds



Story by Colette St John, Staff Writer

Jim Mueller is an Eau Claire native who has been with UW-­Eau Claire since first enrolling in 1955. After working in facilities management as a locksmith for nearly 20 years, he then worked in athletics for 15.

Known as “Curly” to most, he has contributed numerous hours of volunteer work to the university.

Specifically with athletics, Mueller provided transportation for sports teams, helped create the original field for Blugold soccer, set up for games, mopped the basketball court at halftime, worked concession stands and much more.

Over the years he has come to identify himself as a member of the Blugold community.

With health issues during his childhood and leading into his life, sports were never an option for him. This is the reason he became heavily involved with athletics throughout his life, he said. “I was fairly tall so I missed out on basketball and football,” Mueller said. “I lived through those people that were in sports, especially the men.”

Beginning with the women’s basketball team, he moved into working with more and more sports teams. He witnessed and helped host five NCAA Division III national tournaments.

Along with sports, he is also active in the community. Mueller participated in 12 shows at the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild and now serves on the board of directors. He also volunteers and serves on the board of directors at the local Boys and Girls Club.

Physical impairments and life battles haven’t stopped him from continuously supporting. His efforts were then recognized in 2010 when the Blugold Spirit award was created in his name, with Mueller as the first recipient.

Along with Mueller, community member Tim Rogge avidly attends many athletic events for Eau Claire. He has been in attendance for many years now as he has made strong ties to the women’s softball and volleyball team. Accompanied by his wife, Sue Rogge, they have made connections to the coaches, fans and players themselves.

“We felt the need to have a connection with younger people and we enjoy sports so it was a natural connection,” Tim Rogge said. “It’s like we’ve got a bunch of extra daughters.”

The Rogge’s regularly attend games and matches, but also support the teams outside of competition by making meals and tagging along on spring break trips with the team.

With regards to Blugold spirit, Tim Rogge feels positively about the concept. “There is definitely a Blugold identity that is beyond just student faculty

“I’d like to think that there are people in the community that feel a part of the university, and we certainly do,” Rogge said.

Student­-athlete Kelly Riesgraf values Rogges’ support of the volleyball team over the years.

“Tim and Sue’s support really means the world to us and we appreciate it so much,” she said. “Knowing that they are always there to cheer us on gives us a sort of comfort, and they truly love Blugold sports.”

Riesgraf said that pride, passion and a determination for excellence are what Blugold spirit means to her.

“In my opinion Tim and Sue are the perfect example of having Blugold spirit, they are always proud to be a Blugold fan and support us (volleyball team) in any way that they can,” she said.

Women’s volleyball head coach, Kim Wudi, said the significance of Tim and Sue Rogge for the team and community.

“I think it’s important for our student-athletes to see that there are people in our community who support them and their efforts to be successful student-athletes,” said Wudi.

When asked about the difference that community members can make, women’s volleyball head coach, Kim Wudi  said she believes that there are many great outcomes.

“Anytime that community members can connect with a team I think there’s mutual benefits for everyone,” said Wudi. “Our teams get the benefit of support and encouragement and community members get to meet and engage with the remarkable young people that represent our campus and community, it’s a win-win.”

UWEC athletic director, Dan Schumacher, said he appreciates  community members such as Jim Mueller and the Rogge’s.

“We just need a lot more (people) with their hearts and heads in the same direction as them,” he said. “We have to earn it every day to start gaining more and more fans and more quality support like those individuals.”

Schumacher aspires to bring more attention to Blugold athletics.

“I think the more emphasis we put on athletics, we brand it and we continue to talk and promote it and point to the successes, the culture change will start to recognize athletics in a little bit of a different light.”

With hopes of an athletically known school as well as academically, Schumacher stated that the entertainment factor for fans is lacking. Through strengthening entertainment and overall convenience, he believes that more fans will support.

“We need to get (fans) in larger numbers, we have to give them reasons to support us, Schumacher said. “When you win, they will come.”