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Intramural program issues stem from conflicting interests

Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012

Updated: Thursday, November 8, 2012 08:11


Virginia Bledsoe / The Tufts Daily

Even with the construction of the new Steve Tisch Sports & Fitness Center, Tufts still does not have enough space to fully accommodate intramural sports, leading to conflicts when issues such as forfeits arise.


For students participating in the intramural sports program, the recreational athletic competition is often tempered by various problems with the administration of the system. Complaints vary from the need to check in before games to the lack of organization to the length of the seasons.

However, according to Director of Intramurals Cheryl Milligan, part of the frustration stems from the constraints of her role in the system, which include trying to give the administration and the students what they want. 

“Our job is to take the goals and limitations of the university and its facilities and make the intramural program as useful a recreational program as we can for students,” Milligan said. “We look at how the students don’t necessarily understand our pressures from the administration, and the administration doesn’t necessarily understand our pressures from the students, and we take both of those sides in the middle and try to direct a program.”

The administration expects the varsity teams and intramural programs to honor their separate, allotted gym times. But issues arise when forfeits lead to empty floor space, causing four hours of intramural basketball to turn into a shootaround for one team in Cousens Gymnasium. This frustrates the Athletics Department, which would have plenty of other uses for that space. 

But students don’t always see it that way. In intramural basketball, some lament a strict forfeit rule and the fact that games are sometimes cut short.

“We don’t ever have a game clock,” sophomore Karthic Aragam, who has played intramural basketball all three of his semesters on campus, said. “It leads to a lot of games that just kind of end abruptly without any sort of countdown. In close games, decided by a basket or two, you want to know how long you have to score. It’s kind of like glorified pickup basketball.”

Another typical complaint is the need for students to check in.

“We had a soccer game one night, and our fifth player was late in showing up so we weren’t able to check in,” sophomore Rohan Rao said. “We were told we had to forfeit and were then kicked out of the league because it was our second or third forfeit. I felt like they weren’t very understanding.”

For students like Aragam and Rao who just want a well-organized venue to get some competitive exercise, the roadblocks to just getting the game going may seem arbitrary and capricious. However, they mostly stem from administrative and competitive requirements.

For example, according to Milligan, the requirement that students check in is a complex one.

“The big argument has always been, ‘Why do we need to check in?’” she said. “We’ve run games before without checking in, and you just get your team and play. But there [are] two sides to that coin. You have students that want everybody checked, or they find themselves playing a basketball team comprised of four varsity players.”

Either way, someone is likely to be unhappy, especially considering the general lack of a sufficient amount of space to satisfy all groups.

“We don’t have a student recreational center just for non-athletes, so there are obviously times of the year when we just don’t have the court space,” Milligan said. “Honestly, though, in the day-to-day operations of intramurals, we aren’t having too difficult a time accommodating both intramurals and varsity teams.”

Still, Milligan says she works to improve the program as best she can, albeit slowly, so that students aren’t overwhelmed with changes. She cited a recently changed forfeit rule that discourages students from missing games as the cause for forfeit numbers dropping from 75 percent to around 25 percent.

Now, Milligan is continuing to work to keep forfeits down and students happy.

“One of the things we’ve been working on is maybe making the sports smaller numbers,” Milligan said. “We’d make five-on-five basketball into three-on-three basketball, because its just easier to get three kids together than it is to get five, and maybe that can help the forfeit situation.”

In the end, the program remains a work in progress, and, despite the seemingly impossible task of finding the perfect recipe for intramurals, they are not going to die out anytime soon. Students will always have their grievances, but they’ll still show up at the gym for their weekly dose of sports, even with Milligan vowing to correct some of the obstacles that have made students so frustrated over the last few years.

“We’re really trying to adjust to our busy student body,” she said. “Maybe that will solve our problem of the pressure of using the space when we should, and getting the students who want to play here.”

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