Today, approximately 25 percent of Yale students regularly participate in intramural sports, according to head IM secretary Peter Jasinski ’12. But that number is less than half of the 54 percent participation rate that the college achieved in 1942.
With their own uniforms and mini-tailgates, intramurals — then called Inter-college Games — were a vital part of residential college life. IM matches drew crowds of student watchers, and the winners of tackle football would even be featured in The Game’s program. In short, Jasinski said, intramurals had much more prestige around campus at midcentury than they do now.
“The general idea of colleges has softened over time,” Jasinski said. “Looking back at older records, like 30 or 40 years ago, I get the feeling that IMs were more closely tied to a college’s community and pride.”
Intramurals at Yale first began in the early 1900s as a chance for non-varsity athletes to play sports, but things changed when residential colleges were created in 1933. Previously, teams were often formed around graduation years, but after the mid-1930s, intramural teams were based on residential college affiliations. Since then, residential colleges have played various sports continuously in their quest to win the Tyng Cup, a gift from three alumni. An exception was the period from 1943 to 1946, when competition was suspended for three years due to World War II.
In 1933, Jasinski said, there were not as many activities on campus, which may have contributed to the higher importance that students placed on IMs. Both he and Tom Migdalski, director of club sports, said they think the addition of many new activities at Yale over the years possibly contributed to the decrease in students’ dedication to intramurals.
“Sports were primary back then, with few extracurricular distractions,” Migdalski said.
Athletics are not any less important, he added, but Yalies today have multiple interests. That diversity of interests, combined with the pressures of academic performance, pulls Yalies in several different directions now.
Other changes have also affected the difference in the value of intramural sports. In the past, varsity athletes often participated in intramurals during their off-seasons as a way to stay in shape. But 20 to 25 years ago, the NCAA began allowing full-season workouts. Coaches, who were wary of athletes becoming injured while playing intramurals, discouraged or forbid their athletes from playing intramurals. As a result, many sports that required a higher level of skill, such as tackle football, had to be scrapped.
But despite that and the decreasing participation rate, the number of intramural sports has generally increased over the years, Jasinski said. Only eight sports have been retired since the intramural program’s beginnings, while many more have been added.
Baseball and crew, which were played in the first year of IMs, were retired in 2008 and 1994, respectively. Field hockey had been played since 1984, but was removed in 2007. Racquetball was retired due to the lack of racquetball courts after the opening of the William K. Lanman Jr. Center at Payne Whitney Gym in 1999. Wrestling, men’s softball and handball were also eliminated due to lack of interest.
Looking forward to the future, Jasinski said the only sport he can foresee being cut is billiards. Next year, Jasinski said a triathlon event — with running, biking and rowing — is likely to be added.
“If the secretaries want it, it will pass, and currently it has good backing,” he said.
It is not difficult to add more intramural sports, as it requires a proposal and the vote of the secretaries, Jasinski added.
“We continue to explore more sports … as interest arises,” Migdalski said, adding that he believes that intramural sports will continue expand in the future, especially with the addition of two new colleges.
Timothy Dwight College has the most Tyng wins with 12, while Trumbull has the least with one.