Tugs rivalry flares: ‘This year, we want it all’


Sam Swafford, Phi Kappa Theta Tugs captain, leads Phi Kapps members during Tugs training Tuesday night in front of the fraternity’s house.

By Keith Hernandez

Sam Swafford, Phi Kappa Theta Tugs captain, plans to end his second and final year of Tugs competition with victory.

Phi Kapps is one of eight teams competing in the annual Tugs tournament April 21 to 26 in the East Tailgate field at Huskie Stadium. The team finished last year’s tournament in second place.

“This year, we want it all,” Swafford said. “That puts a little more motivation in every tugger.”

Swafford’s other motivators this time around are order and dedication. Tim Gibson, senior organizational corporate communications major and a Phi Kapps member, said Swafford keeps the team on track.

“What makes him a good captain is he keeps everyone motivated and gets everybody assembled for practice every single day,” Gibson said.

During practice, the team members stretch, run and exercise moves with the rope in their basement.

One such move involves the anchor, or the last person on the rope, standing up and leaning back. The rest of the team follows, creating a waterfall-like pull of gravity.

Swafford attributes Phi Kapps’ loss in last year’s tournament to its early winning streak.

“We were like, ‘We proved ourselves to get here; I don’t think we need to do anymore,’” Swafford said. “That’s what killed us ultimately in the end.”

Second rope captain Mike Mercure, junior communication major and a member of Phi Kapps, said Swafford is taking this year’s competition seriously.

“He doesn’t put up with people messing around and screwing around,” Mercure said. “He makes sure everyone is in line, doing what they need to do when they need to do it.”

The captain’s main roles are to oversee the team during off-season and to assume the position of first rope caller during a match. A caller stands to the side and calls out synchronized tugs known as hits.

First rope consists of older, more experienced players who compete in the first of two rounds of a match.

The role of head captain is traditionally given to the first caller and handed down to the second. Mercure said he is ready to undertake the position next spring, especially after assisting in the training of Delta Zeta for women’s Tugs.

Women’s Tugs occurs annually during the fall. Delta Zeta has won the last seven tournaments.

“I tugged my freshman year and my sophomore year, and basically you have to know what to do, how to run Tugs,” Mercure said. “I’m confident.”