Some were high school sports stars. Others barely know the rules of American football. But regardless of their past experiences, University of Pennsylvania undergraduates who live in campus residences have opportunities to express their athletic sides while potentially earning some bragging rights for their college house, through the College House Cup.
“You don’t necessarily have to be competitive and an all-out winner at everything,” says Troy Majnerick, associate director of Penn’s Office of New Student Orientation and Academic Initiatives. “The College House Cup is really about going out and having fun and getting some recreation, getting a little bit of exercise, all the while doing it in the name of your House.”
Intramural sports have long been an important part of campus life, with certain leagues open to men, women and co-ed teams and others specifically for members of fraternities and sororities. The University’s College Houses, which now number 11, got a dedicated league in 2005.
Michael Housman, then a graduate associate in Stouffer College House, was instrumental in developing and growing the College House intramural-sports program. To honor the College House that earns the most points for their residence during the course of a year, through success in sports like volleyball, softball and flag football, as well as other events, Housman donated a three-foot-tall trophy that is awarded annually to the winning House. It is fittingly deemed the Housman Cup.
“For every sport that Penn Recreation does, from soccer to softball to dodgeball to kickball to volleyball, they hold a special division that is the College House league,” Majnerick says. “It’s sort of like Harry Potter, with the Houses competing against each other, building community.”
Along with the department of College Houses and Academic Services, Penn’s Department of Recreation plays a lead role in organizing the various College House Cup competitions. The largest is the “Quaker Takeover,” held each fall in the Pottruck Center. This free event invites students to an afternoon of friendly competitions, ranging from rock-wall climbing, three-on-three basketball tournaments, video games and “sumo-style” wrestling. Winners earn points for their Houses, but the fun has a higher purpose: All proceeds go to a charity, with a new beneficiary selected each year. Last year the Quaker Takeover raised $1,000 toward Lyme disease research; the year before, it raised $3,000 for the Special Olympics and the Dut Jok Youth Foundation, which supports youth from Southern Sudan. Wharton’s Management 100 course, a requirement for all Wharton students, helps organize and fundraise for the Takeover.
“It’s an opportunity for those students to learn event planning, marketing, soliciting donations and all kinds of other skills,” Majnerick says.
For many College House Cup participants, intramurals are a chance to get their competitive juices flowing in a setting outside the classroom. To help rally participation, each College House has a student intramural liaison to help assemble teams.
“Intramurals are a big emphasis in our House,” says Rick Pezzullo, a sophomore and the intramural liaison for Stouffer College House. “We’re a dynasty.”
Indeed, Stouffer has won the College House Cup every year except last year, when Rodin College House broke the streak.
“Usually the College House Cup has been dominated by Houses with large first-year populations, but last year was the first year that Rodin, which is an exclusively upperclassman House, won the whole thing,” Majnerick says.
But, as the saying goes, winning isn’t everything. College House intramurals also offer students an opportunity to release stress, spend time with friends and learn new activities. Penn Rec even holds clinics to get students introduced to new sports or help them improve their current skills.
And students are increasingly eager for the opportunities.
“This year we had the most teams registered for basketball and soccer that I’ve ever seen,” says Brian Calio, Penn Rec’s assistant director for structured support.
Current standings and schedules for the College House Cup are available at IMleagues.com. After an academic year full of throwing, dodging, running, hitting, jumping, poker-playing and various other athletic (or not-so-athletic) endeavors, the College House Cup will be awarded to the winning House in mid-April.