The fastest-growing University of Chicago intramural sport has begun play for the Winter 2004 season, but not without a major change in the league format. In trying to accommodate the growing interest in coed broomball, the drop of the ball last Monday night marked the opening of a brand new, single-elimination tournament that has replaced the old, round-robin leagues.
Reactions to the change from broomball captains have been mixed. Many feel that getting one game is not enough to justify the $30 fee for time on the ice, nor does it provide enough satisfying experiences to get players excited.
"In my opinion, the single elimination system is completely unfair given that the deposit has instead become a fee," said second-year Matthew Cherian, captain of the Mercenaries. "That means that half the teams that have paid to compete will only do so in one game. Last year with the round-robin, one was able to get an entire house interested in the weekly scores, bruises, and broken bones."
On the other hand, anywhere from 11 to 17 teams would have been rejected without an adjustment in the format. While the intramural sports program strives to put out the best competition it can, it also hopes to get as many people involved in intramural athletics as possible, particularly in newer sports such as broomball, innertube waterpolo and swimming.
"Although this format is not the most ideal, it does provide a taste' of the experience within the sport and the intramural sports department," said Tamsen Burke, director of the office of intramural, recreation, and sport clubs.
"Of course it would have been preferable to have an actual season, but at least this way everyone gets to play. I am pretty sure my team would have been frozen out if they didn't decide to have a tournament. Hopefully next year the IM office can get some more ice time, which would be better for everyone," said fourth-year captain of Dewey House Alan Hoffman, whose team advanced on Monday night to the second round after winning an overtime shootout against a team combining players from the Mathews and Lynn Houses.
Obtaining ice time was the biggest problem the IM program had in satisfying interest. Initially, three round-robin leagues were being offered that would have held a total of 18 teams: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at 8-11 p.m. It was only after those leagues were decided upon that the Office of Community Affairs, which handles the allocation of ice time to University organizations, informed Burke that much of that time would not be available.
"We only have 123 free hours and 20 free days each calendar year for University use. The hours that were originally requested for broomball could not be granted because of a shortage of staff workers during those hours," said David Guyer, assistant director of community affairs. "All the time over at the rink is assigned through Alonzo Williams, the Midway Plaisance Park Center director. If he approves a request for the use of the University's rink time by a student group, we usually go along with it."
"Weekend hours are not available because those are high-revenue times for the Chicago Park District," Guyer added.
"The ice arena has grown in popularity among the University community programs, services, and residential housing office. Each group has an opportunity to request space," Burke said. "With limited time and space due to many University community users requesting an opportunity to use the Ice Arena, the intramural sports program was unable to secure more hours than in 2003 and needed to rethink the type of format to maximize opportunity."
Whether future interest will require increased fees, a cap on teams, or more creative formats is unclear. For the time being, the tournament is well underway with two teams already advancing. The 20-plus teams still alive are going to be scratching away for the ultimate prize of getting to play as much broomball as possible.