DEKALB -- Their tradition began shortly after Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema hired Dave Doeren in 2006.
Bielema, Doeren and a few of Bielema's college buddies started hitting Key West, Fla., over Memorial Day weekend to fish and get away from it all.
"We go down there and have a good time," Doeren said. "We take the wives down and they stay in one city and we go fishing. Then we come back and hang with them."
Their plans didn't change just because Doeren became Northern Illinois' coach and their teams had a Saturday date at Soldier Field.
"If (football) comes up, we talk about it," Doeren said. "But that's not the trip. It's more about relaxing and enjoying yourself.
"It's no different, probably, when you go out with three of your best friends. You hang out and you talk and you laugh and tell stories.
"We both acknowledge the fact that we're friends and opponents at the same time. I'm not going to sit there and make him uncomfortable by asking him personnel questions, you know what I mean?"
Besides, Doeren knows far more about the Badgers as individuals than Bielema knows about the Huskies.
NIU's scouting reports are more detailed than normal with each Badger's strength and weakness.
And, of course, Doeren learned all of offensive coordinator Paul Chryst's nuances during their years competing in practice.
"Yeah, I know how they block 'Power' and 'Lead' and things like that," Doeren said. "But you have to stop it when they snap it."
"Knowing that, 'Hey, the left tackle can do this better than this or this receiver is better at this route than this route,' that's good insight to have.
"But, again, you've got to be able to defend it when it happens."
Junior cornerback Rashaan Melvin sat out NIU's loss to Kansas on Saturday with an unspecified injury.
Melvin, perhaps the MAC's best defensive back, practiced Wednesday with a brace on his right knee and his hands all over the football.
Head coach Dave Doeren reported with a smile that Melvin intercepted "3 or 4" passes during practice and that he will play Saturday.
"He's definitely a big part of the defense," said NIU defensive end Sean Progar. "I'm excited he's out here practicing with us, and I'm hoping he can go for the whole game because we definitely need him."
Get on the bus:
Northern Illinois all-MAC center Scott Wedige grew up in Elkhorn, Wis., which is roughly equidistant from DeKalb and Madison, Wis.
People from Wedige's hometown aren't missing the opportunity to see the 305-pound NFL prospect face off against the Badgers.
Wedige said Wednesday 68 people bought tickets in advance and chartered a Coach bus for the game.
Then, as an added bonus, Wedige scared up 18 player passes to give him a total of 86 fans on his side Saturday.
You'll know the group in the Soldier Field stands by their No. 71 jerseys.
Northern Illinois has hired Jim Cornelison to handle the national anthem at Saturday's game.