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February 3, 2012

Quidditch to land on campus this spring

Grab your broomsticks.

The first Quidditch season will begin this spring, according to fourth-year Evan Weingarten, founder of the RSO UChicago Quidditch.

The sport, which wizards in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series play by flying around on broomsticks, has been adapted in high schools and on college campuses across the country. According to Brian Bock, director of Intramurals, Recreation, and Sports Clubs, over 300 institutions in the country have a student Quidditch team.

UChicago Quidditch members said that they received strong interest from students interested in the sport.

“We’ve gotten eight responses so far...[and] we have had other organizations asking if they could play,” said third-year Bethany Bailey, a member of UChicago Quidditch’s board.

There is an International Quidditch Association (IQA) that has created a set of rules, and a Quidditch World Cup has been played every year in New York since 2006, according to first-year board member of UChicago Quidditch Julia Rittenberg. Both Bock and UChicago Quidditch members said that they would modify IQA rules to ensure the safety of all who participate in the sport.

“We had to revise the IQA rules because they involved slide tackling,” Rittenberg said. Weingarten said that the RSO had reviewed the rules at different universities in order “to get a sense of what would minimize risk.”

Bock expressed concern over rules allowing one of the players, the “snitch,” to run anywhere, even beyond the limits of the field.

“It’s fine if it’s confined within a space, but as soon as we have people running across streets, we have some concern,” he said.

Overall, Bock was supportive of the new sport, whether run as an IM sport or as a student-run activity.

“I’m all for it, I’m excited, I hope it takes off,” he said. However, Bock expressed concern about Quidditch’s ability to sustain significant student interest, based on stories from other schools.

“It’s had mixed reviews,” he said. “The backing hasn’t been there, it’s fizzled out. There hasn’t been interest in a season.”

Stone said he isn’t concerned about lack of interest. “Even the amount of teams we have now implies a significant interest,” he said.

Bailey was also optimistic about the future of Quidditch at the University.

“We have young members on the board who are really excited about it,” she said. “That’s one of the great things about it being student-run.”

This inaugural season of Quidditch has been in the making for several years. After hearing about the sport being played on other college campuses, Weingarten started to wonder why it wasn’t being played here. In the summer of 2010, he began making inquiries into starting a Quidditch team.

“We have this reputation as Hogwarts, but we don’t have Quidditch,” he said. “The summer before submitting, I was in contact with Brian Bock and people in the housing office about why we didn’t have this.”

Encouraged by the response from University administrators, Weingarten decided to apply to the Uncommon Fund.

“We were unanimously voted into the second round,” Weingarten said, and ultimately UChicago Quidditch was allocated $2,165, which will be put toward operations costs and buying nets, hoops, and jerseys.

On their application, Weingarten said, they had listed themselves as “IM Quidditch” in order to communicate to the board what the season would look like. However, Weingarten said, the RSO is trying to model Quidditch off of Midnight Soccer, a student-run activity.

For future years, the RSO’s goal is to be able to field a club team that could compete against other schools around the country. For now, however, UChicago Quidditch is simply looking to introduce the sport on campus. “We should have an opportunity for people to get into it,” said Bailey. “We just want to get it out there.”

A meeting for RAs and representatives from other interested organizations will take place next week.

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