After nearly 10 years of heated, elite-level opposition, one of the biggest regional rivalries in college Ultimate is no more. Due to USA Ultimate’s region restructure, CUT (now in Region 4) and the Hodags (Region 5) might only meet at regular season tournaments, effectively ending one of the most storied and emotional regional rivalries.
Update: 11/23/10 – USAU has announced a further shift to the regional divisions putting Carleton and Wisconsin back in the same region. As we understand, they give Pulitzers for journalism that results in public policy change.
These two teams are no strangers to high level play. The Wisconsin Hodags have claimed the College Championships title three times (2002, 2007, 2008) and have made the trip to the finals five times. CUT has won the College title as recently as 2009, with another victory in 2001, along with another finals appearance in 2010. Without a doubt, the Hodags and CUT have built some of the most impressive Ultimate programs in the country. Both draw many hopefuls every year to vie for a coveted spot on their respective A-Teams. These programs also attract many USA Junior National Team players, strengthening their roster every year. With a familiarity of competitive success, having two powerhouse teams in the same region was a rarity.
While the fierceness of battle resounds heavily, it wasn’t until the early 2000’s that this rivalry really heated up. Though both teams had met many times at Regionals throughout the 90’s, CUT’s main rival at that time was the University of Colorado Mamabird.
“We used to have bigger games with Colorado because they were also in our region,” says Chris Kosednar (CUT, 2006-2009). “When I talk with the older alums they say that we routinely beat up on the Hodags. It wasn’t until the early ’00s that we actually began to have close games.”
The Hodags clawed for respect, improving against CUT every year. Then, in 2006, with only one bid out of the Central Region to Nationals, Wisconsin closed the door on CUT, defeating them 15-12 and ending CUT’s 16 year streak of qualifying for the College Championships.
Now that college is over, I don’t feel quite so hostile towards CUT all the time, just most of the time. -Brandon “Muffin” Malacek, Wisconsin Hodags (2004-2008)
From that moment, Hodags v. CUT became solidified in the history of both programs, with the impending Regional final as the battleground.
“From day one of tryouts the captains spoke of the teams goals, which included beating CUT in regional finals,” says ex-Hodag captain Dan Heijman (2003-2007). “This was an incredible rivalry and a staple of every college season for the Hodags.”
“A lot of times as a team we would try to not let ourselves get sucked into call matches with them, especially Muffin, he was a bitch sometimes.” says Chris Kosednar of CUT.
However, within the beating heart of combat lies a glimmer of mutual respect.
“As much as we wanted to beat the hell out of every Hodag team we ever faced, it was hard not to respect a program of that caliber,” says ex-CUT Chase Sparling Beckley (2001-2004). “Overall, I think that our match ups had wonderful spirit in this way: both teams had an unspoken agreement that within the subjective rules of Ultimate, we were going to fight and claw and bludgeon each other with every ounce of energy that we had until one side came out victorious. Everything was left on the field.”
“Both teams wanted to win so badly that on the field relations weren’t the best – but I always felt respect for Carleton. Sure I’d get furious at a CUT player for a dirty play or bad call – but the reality is that my teammates were doing the same thing.” said Dan Heijman.
With USA Ultimate’s restructuring of the college regions, some of the alums feel relieved that the regional rivalry is over, while others refuse to let it end.
“No. I think that CUT/Hodags should put together an annual game with some sort of trophy or cup, much like in other sports. The game could switch between Carleton and Madison, it would be sweet, really sweet,” suggests Chris Kosednar. ” I think it is an important restructure because it will allow the Hodags and CUT to both make Nationals on a more consistent basis.”
A lot of times as a team we would try to not let ourselves get sucked into call matches with them, especially Muffin, he was a bitch sometimes – Chris Kosednar, Carleton CUT
“For us it’s just the rivalry,” says Heijman. “They are the enemy – the team you have to respect, but love to beat. I’ve always felt that they played the best against us. We lose a great measuring stick to gauge ourselves. The game is so fiercely contested that you really learn about yourself and your team.”
Some alumni are hopeful that new rivalries will form out of the region change.
“I’d like to see what comes out of it, new rivalries form,” argues Jimmy Chu (CUT, 2000-2004). “But I have heard a lot of alums say they’ll miss the battle between CUT/Hodags and the season won’t be the same without it.”
“I think that CUT/Hodags should put together an annual game with some sort of trophy or cup, much like in other sports,” says Kosednar. “The game could switch between Carleton and Madison, it would be sweet, really sweet.”
Though the chapter of Hodags/CUT may have ended for now, a new chapter will soon begin. Wisconsin’s new regional competition includes such upcoming teams as Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan and Illinois, all of whom have either been to the College Championships, or been in a game to go.
Carleton’s new region includes University of Iowa and the University of Kansas. However, the alumni note one new team that will challenge CUT for regional supremacy: University of Minnesota Grey Duck.
“Minnesota is definitely the up and coming power,” says Kosednar. “You can only lose so much before you start to win. The Hodags got trashed by CUT for 15 years, then the Hodags beat up on CUT for 3 years. Now we are stomping on the Hodags again, and eventually U of M will get in on it.”
Both teams wanted to win so badly that on the field relations weren’t the best – but I always felt respect for Carleton. Sure I’d get furious at a CUT player for a dirty play or bad call – but the reality is that my teammates were doing the same thing . -Dan Heijman, Wisconsin Hodags
CUT may indeed have their hands full with Grey Duck. The two teams met many times last year, including the Central Regional finals and pool play and quarterfinals at the College Championships. CUT came out on top in every game.
Without a doubt, however, the rivalry between the Hodags and CUT will be discussed for ages – two teams at the top of their game colliding at full force. With a little help from fate (and perhaps a nostalgic tournament director), the rivalry will continue to flourish and impress the gods of Ultimate for years to come. Certainly, the road to the College Championships may be paved a little smoother for both the Wisconsin Hodags and Carleton CUT.
“Now that college is over, I don’t feel quite so hostile towards CUT all the time, just most of the time,” reflects Brandon “Muffin” Malacek of the Hodags.