‘Ringers’ hinder intramural team camaraderie

By Josh Brown, Sports Editor

Intramurals. They are a part of many college students’ lives. We all play them for different reasons.

Some of us play lower-division intramurals simply for a fun time with friends. Some students may have played sports in high school but decided it was too time-consuming or were not quite good enough to play in college. Those students play intramurals because they miss playing sports and enjoy it.

Others, including myself, are a bit more competitive and play upper-division intramurals for better competition and may be those athletic students who played sports in high school.

But whatever the reason, the underlining theme for intramurals should be to provide those students who do not play on a university sports team with a fun and friendly competitive way to play sports with fellow students.

The rule at Union is that student-athletes cannot participate in the intramural sport that they play for the univer¬sity. For example, a center for the Bulldogs’ basketball team cannot participate in basket¬ball intramurals.

This is generally to make it fair for those students who are not on university teams and have not de¬voted hours and days of practice to that one sport. Essentially, this evens the playing field between teams so no one team will have a college-trained athlete dunking on all the other players who are just looking to have fun.

But what about the student-athlete who graduates in four years but stays at Union for graduate school? Or the student-athlete who plays a sport for four years but does not graduate on time for whatever reason and returns as a “fifth-year senior”?

Those students can no longer play for the university af¬ter four years. However, these former athletes are allowed to play intramurals at Union.

A former basketball or soccer player, for example, might graduate and come back to Union for pharmacy school, or whatever it may be, decide to play the intramural sport they played for the university and dominate it almost single-handedly.

I am a senior this year, and I have witnessed instances such as this scenario back to my freshman year at Union.

The question should then become, is this fair to those students who have never played a college sport? Should those former athletes even be allowed to play the intramural sport they played for the university?

I believe the answer is no, because it makes it unfair for those intramural teams that do not have those former athletes on their team.

I want to be clear when I say I am not bashing former athletes who do this; I do not blame them. I would want to do the same thing, especially if they have a genuine passion for that sport and want to continue playing it. I am also not saying this only happens at Union.

I have had five instances just this last year in which good friends who go to state schools have told me the same thing happens at their colleges. Every one of these friends has said the same thing, “It just sucks the fun out of even playing intramurals with teams like that.”

In those conversations, I even had friends say it is almost like all organizations participating in intramurals, whether Greek or independent, are try¬ing to recruit as many former student-athletes as possible to have these powerhouse teams that will easily crush the competition. I would agree.

I have seen that first-hand at Union. I am in a fraternity on campus and have been guilty of asking former athletes to play a certain sport for us or accepting those who asked if they could. It happens, and I am sure other Greek organizations, as well as independent teams, have done that in the past too.

I would not blame them.

Who would not want that 7-foot former college center playing intramural basketball for his team and dunking on everyone?

That is especially true with those teams in the upper-division at Union who want to be competitive and win. Winning is fun and no one wants to be on the other end, getting creamed in a game. But we have to ask ourselves if that is the only thing, even in the upper-division, that makes intramurals fun.

Again, I do not think former athletes should be banned from playing every intramural sport once they are ineligible to play college sports anymore. That would not be fair to them at all, but I think former athletes should not be allowed to play the intramural sport they played in college to keep it fair for the other students participating.

There are always leagues outside of college and intra¬murals that those former ath¬letes can compete in that may actually provide an even level of competition for them. At the same time, banning former athletes from playing the intramural sport they played in college will even the playing field for all intramural teams and still keep them competitive and fun for students.

Besides, would victory not taste that much sweeter having won with that underdog, scrappy team of friends?

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The Cardinal & Cream is a student publication of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee. Our staff ranges from freshmen to seniors and includes a variety of majors — including journalism, public relations, advertising, marketing, digital media studies, graphic design and art majors.