Under great strength, under great pressure and under great tension, this rope is tested. The fibers are slowly starting to wear. Hemp bristles split from the braided core. Years of dirt, sweat and grass smear the outer layer tingeing the color to a grayish brown. This rope is coiled up in a plastic container stored in the back of a storage room in the basement of International Hall for 364 days a year. Its use is for one day and one day only: the Annual Alumni Rope Pull.
Picking back up the old tradition of the rope pull in 2004, the Alumni Relations Committee changed a few things up. The newly-modified tradition challenges the freshmen against sophomores, juniors against seniors. Each winner of those matches competes against each other, and finally the returning alumni guests take on the overall class winners. The pull is performed on Stagg Field during halftime of the Homecoming football game, which took place this past Saturday afternoon.
Students and alums gathered in their respective corners of the field around volunteers directing the crowd with labeled signs for classes. The excitement in the air moments before halftime was tangible. Meeting in huddles on the field, each class seemed to have a preparation speech and some sort of chant made up on the spot to boost team morale and give them that last kick of energy needed to haul the opposing team over the line.
All this preparation, all this excitement and all this buildup is rewarded to the winners by engraving their class on a silver cup of victory located at the entrance of Stagg; on display for all to see and as a reminder of the victorious classes that have come and gone.
This wasn’t always the traditional rope pull though. Class of ‘56 Roger Gates shared that the rope pull was the only event of the day back in his years here at Springfield. “It was the only thing we did that day. It was the thing to do,” said Gates. “It was only the freshmen and sophomores that ever pulled, and the sophomores had the advantage of flat ground underneath them. We pulled the freshmen into the Massasoit Lake.”
Before the revival and reset of the tradition in ‘04, students of Springfield College gathered around opposite sides of the lake and cheered as freshmen stood up to the sophomore challenge of the rope pull. Sophomores were on the campus side of the lake and freshmen were forced to the uneven-sloped side across the lake. The rope stretched out across the water and the victorious class was the one that remained dry.
Time has passed, and the tradition has been modified. Senority helped the veterans back in the day, however present day doesn’t seem to keep the upperclassmen safe from the loss. With no number restriction on how many participants can take part on one team of the rope pull, this allowed the very excited and eager alumni to outnumber all classes. With a heave and a ho, the alumni tugged to win with the advantage of numbers. Alumni class of 2012 will be the newest feature to the silver cup of victory.
As for the losers, their positive was not swimming out of the Massasoit.