Fraternities prepare for Tugs event

By Keith Hernandez

To Phi Sigma Kappa, Tugs means brotherhood.

Tugs is an annual tug of war tournament sponsored by the Interfraternity Council that takes place during the week of NIU’s Red and Black spring football game. The tournament, which has been around since the early 1960s, has been a large part of PSK tradition.

“We’ve been tugging for at least 15 to 20 years,” Stiff said. “The tradition that we have in our house, everything being passed down from alumni to the active chapter and improving on it every year, kind of makes for a winning combination.”

PSK Tugs team captains Owen Stiff and Mike Tran have emphasized the role of camaraderie in their team’s preparation for the 2014 competition.

“It’s the biggest example of brotherhood,” Stiff said. “It creates a different type of bond. Guys who don’t tug don’t fully understand.”

Training begins as early as January and takes up much of the team’s social and school life. Cardio is the most important element in conditioning for the tournament, Tran said. Plyometric workouts, weight lifting and eating healthy are among other things players do to prepare until warmer weather ushers in trench and rope practices.

“A lot of these guys give up a lot to participate,” Stiff said. “What these guys give to be out there every day and to win is always appreciated, and it shows.”

Players run the risk of injury due to the strain of practice and the competition. In the past, players have suffered from back-related injuries and extreme pressure to their shoulders, knees and ribs.

“Everyone gets hit with the injury bug at some point,” Stiff said. “If a chiropractor were to see what we’re doing, he’d freak out.”

Senior sociology major Joe Wehling, a member of PSK, said the hard training and injuries are worth it.

“It’s very hard on your body and your back,” Wehling said. “It’s got to be the dumbest sport in the world, pulling a rope back and forth, but it’s about bragging rights and pride in your fraternity.”

Each team is comprised of one or two Greek letter organizations. Nine members on each team compete in one round for 20 minutes or until the entire 100-foot rope is taken by the team, signifying a win. The team who has the majority of the rope after 20 minutes gains an advantage.

Another set of nine players then compete in a second round. A third round between the first set occurs when neither team wins two rounds or when neither team wins a round and gains an advantage. The winners move forward in the tournament until the final two teams compete.

What makes this game of tug of war unique to NIU is the way it is played. Instead of playing on a flat surface, each member uses a 2-by-2-foot trench for grip. The trench allows for what Tran calls a hit, or a synchronized tug that is signaled by a designated player.

PSK won the Tugs championship last year against Phi Kappa Theta, sparking a rivalry between the teams.

Tran said Tugs unites Greek organizations more than it divides them.

“We’re competing with each other, but it also brings Greek life together,” Tran said. “It’s one big tradition.”