Imagine this: It’s the flag football championship game of the recreational intramural league. You haven’t run any drills, discussed any passing plays, and you haven’t even played with a full team yet. But you have done your studying – your nose has been stuck to the television screen to watch the Seahawks defeat the Minnesota Vikings. You’ve scoped out the stats of the opposing team. You’ve even memorized Coach Herb Brooks’ game-day speech from “Miracle on Ice,” which you deliver perfectly minutes before the first whistle is blown, and your team is on fire.
But your flame has been put out, fast. The other team is not made up of fellow beginners, but rather varsity football veterans. They’re pulling flags and intercepting passes left and right, and before you know it, the final whistle is blown. The ref announces the mercy rule has been applied, and your game was cut short. But this atrocity goes beyond mercy ruling - you’ve been sandbagged.
On Nov. 11, Jose Hernandez, the director of the Rudolf Fitness Center, sent out an email to report to all students of this intramural epidemic. Sandbagging, which Hernandez defined as “deliberately playing or participating below one’s actual ability in order to play with a better chance to win,” has created an unfair playing space in Gonzaga’s intramural.
The RFC has hopes to combat sandbagging with an intramural remodel, in which they are decreasing the number of leagues from four to three: Boone, Sharp and Sinto. The RFC hopes that by giving new names to the leagues, this will encourage players to read the descriptions of each league before deciding so that they are guided toward a league that best fits their team’s playing ability.
“By giving a little more detail in our descriptions, we’re hoping that people will pay attention to that and that hopefully will minimize the sandbagging issue,” Shelly Radtke, the associate director of the RFC, said in an interview.
Brandon Okazaki, a senior soccer intramural participant, has experienced sandbagging from both sides.
“Really it is just annoying for both teams – your team doesn’t get better for sandbagging, and the other team just feels bad," he said. "Playing at the level you should be at is important."
Andrew Carlson, a junior who works as a referee in intramurals, agrees that the league name-changes is a productive step toward eradicating sandbagging from the game.
“Sandbagging is unfair because ultimately you have players at a higher-level dominating teams who really wouldn’t get a chance, and it decreases overall interest in intramurals,” Carlson said. “If you’re going to get smashed every time and you’re recreational, then that’s unfair.
To incentivize players to play at their respected levels, there will be different prizes at each level that correspond with the level of the league. For the Boone league, winners will receive the Championship T-Shirt, for the Sharp league players will win a long-sleeve T-shirt, and a Championship sweatshirt will be awarded to the winners of the Sinto league.
“Sandbagging is not productive to intramurals as a whole at Gonzaga, but it still is a culture that happens because people want to win shirts,” Carlson said. “But, changing the prizes does make a difference.”
So, if you and your team have been on the losing side of the foul play of sandbagging, keep your hopes up. The new IMLeagues model will be in full effect during the Spring 2020 semester, and Hernandez, Radtke and the RFC refs will be paying attention to how the new model contributes to the play of the game.
“We hope that with these changes things will be great, but it is our job to continue looking at improving regardless of what we do,” Hernandez said. “As long as we have balance, then I think we are in good shape, and everyone wins.”