Imagine students tailgating in the parking lot, bundling up to keep warm on chilly autumn afternoons with fellow boisterous fans, feverishly anticipating the home team sprinting onto the field.
A staple of many college campuses, the atmosphere around collegiate football is tough to duplicate.
GW has not experienced anything similarly vibrant in 40 years. GW’s last varsity football game was played in 1966. The Colonials had a thriving program for over 70 years, but no longer competes in the sport that favors big rural state schools with space for monstrous stadiums and more students and alumni to fill those seats.
To quench their football thirst, students, both undergraduate and graduate, entered GW’s flag football intramural tournament that took place Saturday and Sunday, and will conclude the weekend of Sept. 30 with the finals.
“I definitely came to GW expecting to play intramural sports,” said freshman Mohit Shah, a former high school football player. “I just wish (the rules allowed us) to tackle one another. I really feel like hitting somebody.”
Shah’s team, “9th Floor EMERGEnce,” met in the first few weeks of school, mostly in their residence hall, Thurston.
“We’re all on the same floor,” Shah said. “We get to play together, just have some fun. And then when we kick some ass, we can go back to our dorms and talk about how awesome we are.”
The tournament featured male only and co-ed teams. Twenty-four teams registered for the men’s flag football tournament and more than 200 participated, said Tony Odett, the tournament’s director. Seven additional teams signed up for the co-ed tournament.
All weekend long, teams sporting athletic shorts, football jerseys and cleats, made the 20-minute walk from Foggy Bottom to the public field on the corner of 23rd Street and Independence Avenue.
In past years, flag football took place the entire fall season. Teams played five regular season games and the best teams earned a berth in the single-elimination playoffs held in late October. This year, the season was truncated into a two-weekend tournament so that the playing field could be re-sodded in October, intramural sports director Shomari Kee said. Overall, teams participated with enthusiasm, regardless of the shortened season.
“We’ll be back,” promised freshman captain Sadiq Okocha, after his team’s season-ending loss to the “Red Rockets” on Saturday. Okocha’s team, the “Admirals,” is made up of mostly Thurston residents as well, but formed in an unusual fashion. The “Admirals'” ties to one another vary. Some of the team members met in their freshman residence halls, but Okocha and David Cutting attended middle school together in Nigeria.
The “Admirals” had a great time, but complained that the tournament enforced “too many constricting rules.” Not unlike the NFL, players complained of the referees’ stringency.
“We put a huge emphasis on the rules,” freshman official Elroy Sequeira said. Each official goes through a two-part training clinic – a meeting and an on-the-field demonstration – in an effort to make games as fair as possible. While the officials get trained and are paid $7 an hour, players still find calls to argue.
“When you’re officiating, you run the show,” Sequeria said. “It’s your call and no one else’s. You definitely build confidence with this job.”
While it is likely that GW football will never return, flag football has given students a taste of fall campus life in Foggy Bottom.