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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Stroke of Genius: Carleton Ultimate Team not making the cut

<s sitting in Burton dining hall, this past week, I overheard an argument taking place a few seats away from me. An eclectic mix of male Carleton students was gathered around a table boisterously debating. I didn’t really think anything of it at first, but as the raucous expanded and voices became louder and louder, I couldn’t help but watch the argument that was unfolding before my eyes.

It was apparent that the dispute centered on the sport of ultimate Frisbee. More specifically, the topic was whether or not CUT (Carleton Ultimate Team) is the most distinguished athletic team at Carleton. The whole scene was rather comedic, but the issue itself perplexed me.

While CUT “competes at the highest level of college ultimate” (according to its website), it is entirely different from a varsity sport. In fact, any person that links a club sport, like CUT, to a varsity sport hasn’t thoroughly thought about the comparison.

Varsity sports compete against much tougher competition and better athletes. Pure and simple, there are not Peyton Manning or Kevin Durant type athletes in Ultimate. In most NCAA varsity sports, student athletes play their entire high school years in order to get scholarships or continue in that sport. The best of these players play to become professional athletes and to make big-time contracts. But there are few that ever reach this level of success or athleticism. In professional basketball, for example, there are 60 college and international athletes selected in the NBA draft each year. From the over 100 Division I athletic programs, only 60 people are good enough to earn their way into the NBA. Add both Division II and III programs into the mix, there are roughly 400 college basketball programs throughout the country. Assuming that an average of 15 players are on each team, there are approximately 6,000 college basketball players.

There is an enormous discrepancy between the level of competition varsity and club athletes play at because better athletes choose to play mainstream varsity sports. This is what makes CUT so good in their sport, but if Ultimate were to become a varsity sport, competition would be dramatically changed. Large state schools would begin to offer scholarships to Ultimate players and this would cause the level of play to get better. CUT, like all Division III programs, would not be able to give scholarships and therefore would not be able to draw as talented players to their team. They would fall victim to the same system that keeps Carleton from producing Michael Jordan type athletes in any varsity sport.

The sport of Ultimate has only been around according to the Ultimate Players Association (UPA) since the late 1960s. Granted, it is becoming significantly more competitive each year, but it is still almost blasphemous to make such a statement as the one I heard being made in the dining hall. Ultimate, and CUT for that matter, are still fledglings in the world of collegiate athletics. Until competition between schools and athletic ability is equal between CUT and other Carleton varsity sport programs, a claim like CUT being the most distinguished team at Carleton is nonsensical.

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