Tetherball and bowling. They seem like a dubious combination, but back in the late 1950s when Art Endres became CUA’s intramural sports director, he brought with him a self-created sport — swing-du-lum — combining the two activities. Ten pins were set up in the shape of a triangle on the floor while a ball on a string hung from the ceiling. A player launched the ball in a circular motion in an attempt to knock down the pins. Competition got pretty intense, according to Jone Dowd, CUA associate athletic director.
Although swing-du-lum is no longer played at CUA, the extensive intramural athletic program that Endres created still exists and is thriving.
Intramurals have seen their popularity rise and fall over the years. When varsity volleyball coach Nagy Abdelrazek took over as intramurals director in 2002, he says there were fewer than 200 participants. Today, about 960 students take part in the program. Back in the 1950s, only men could participate in intramurals at the university. At that time, badminton and racquetball were the most popular intramural sports; today basketball is easily the biggest draw: About 350 students participate and, on occasion, a couple hundred spectators show up.
Although the program really began in the 1940s, Endres was a “guru,” according to Dowd, because he gave intramurals such serious emphasis. He expanded the program to reach out to more students and created a meticulous point system. Today the intramural possibilities remain fairly large: Students can choose from among flag football, volleyball, tennis, basketball, soccer, racquetball, badminton, track and field, and softball.
Back when the program started, faculty members were allowed to compete in intramurals. Rev. Robert Paul Mohan — later a monsignor and professor emeritus in the School of Philosophy — was an excellent tennis player. Professor Mohan would enter the tennis tournaments and beat the students. In the late 1950s some students complained that it was unfair and, from that point on, faculty members were no longer allowed to participate in intramurals. This is now called the “Mohan Rule.”
When Jone Dowd came to the university in 1961, one of her tasks was to develop CUA’s first women’s intramurals program. Initially, the university’s sororities fielded teams that competed in tennis, volleyball, swimming and track. Dowd began selecting the best athletes from these teams to compete in “extramural” competitions against local women’s colleges.
“Participants of these extramural sports were the forerunners for the university’s intercollegiate women’s sports teams,” she says.
Today, in addition to NCAA Division III intercollegiate sports, the university offers intramural and club sports throughout the academic year. Abdelrazek describes club sports — which at CUA include ballroom dancing, cheerleading, ultimate Frisbee, equestrian sports, fencing, ice hockey, rugby, rowing, tae kwon do and urban dance (a dance team that promotes school spirit) — as “semi-varsity,” with coaches and organized practices. Intramurals are more informal, with no coaches or organized practices. Whereas club sports teams compete against other universities, intramural teams compete against other CUA students.
Because of the social and health benefits, Abdelrazek says he would like to get every student involved in at least one intramural sport. “It’s such a great feeling to call your teammate and say, ‘Let’s practice’ and then maybe do something afterwards like go grab a pizza,” he says.
Of course, there is also the incentive of being able to declare yourself a champion. Each intramural sport usually lasts for nine weeks, with the last week reserved for playoffs.
“What it all comes down to is my drive to finally win an intramural title,” says Mark Fellin, a senior politics and theology major who participates in four sports each year (flag football and volleyball in the fall, basketball and indoor soccer in the winter) and spends three or four hours each week practicing and playing in games.
This year, Fellin played on volleyball and flag football teams that were ranked at the top of the league, so he had a shot at becoming a champion. Unfortunately, at the end of the season, his teams fell short of a title.
“Plenty of kids wear ridiculous outfits to games, myself included,” says Fellin. “It becomes competitive, guaranteed, but it’s all in good fun.” This year, his team wore blue and yellow socks and headbands to matches. In the past, students have worn Halloween costumes, such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle outfits.
Recently, Abdelrazek has gotten intramural athletes involved in off-campus events. During the past four years, CUA students have competed at the University of Maryland in a flag football tournament that draws competitors from all over the East Coast. In the winter, Abdelrazek selects some of the best players from the basketball league to compete in Freddie Mac’s Hoops for the Homeless basketball tournament, which benefits charities that serve the homeless in Washington, D.C.
Some talented athletes have filtered through the intramural program over the years, and Abdelrazek says he occasionally refers a player to a varsity coach if he thinks the student is especially gifted. But that’s an occasional byproduct of the system. Fellin sums up the heart and soul of intramural sports at CUA: “It gave me the great opportunity to have fun with my friends and continue in many of the sports that I played in high school. Plus it gets me out of my room and helps me meet people.” — L.C.
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