What is the UOA? According to the UOA’s website, it was founded in 2009 by Mike Gerics and Jason Weddle, who after observing a tournament with experiential rules, decided that Ultimate should be played with more active Observers. Since then, the UOA has run several non-league events, five conference tournaments in October and November, and will run UOA Nationals this weekend.
The UOA’s Nationals is smaller than the twenty team USAU College Championships in May. The tournament will see eight teams (primarily from the East Coast). Each team will meet every other team and will be playing eight games total (7 pool play and 1 placement game). What makes UOA Nationals unique is not just the limited size, but more of what it’s trying to instill in the sport itself with UOA Observers.
“Our Observers have more active duties than other organizations,” explains Mike Gerics, the UOA’s Director of Competition. “We’re counting the stalls, calling travels, restarting play after stoppages, we provide quick rulings on disputed fouls and violations.” In addition, UOA Observers will call the disc up and down. These rules have been experimented with by USAU and other groups at tournaments like Seattle’s Emerald City Classic, but they have not been adopted fully into the Championship tournaments.
The 8 teams attending UOA Nationals this weekend in Greenville, North Carolina are Pittsburgh,Virginia, Dartmouth, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, James Madison, Brandeis, and UConn. Five of these teams won a UOA hosted Conference tournament over the course of October and early November. The final three spots were filled by the runners-up in the ACC, Ivy and Big East conferences (voted the strongest conferences by captains).
Noticeably absent from UOA Nationals are familiar faces like Carleton CUT, the Florida Gators and virtually every open team that was at the College Championships last year with exception to Pittsburgh. This being the first year of an entirely different league, the lack of top tier teams is perhaps understandable. But Mike Gerics thinks he’s got the equation right to make teams happy. “We keep things simple!” says Gerics. “Players seem to appreciate our Observers, philosophies and methods of officiating. We keep the games moving along speedily. No down time, no debating. We’re quick to rule in order to minimize discussion and to maximize PLAYING ULTIMATE. Our Observers are confident, fair and consistent and we hustle for best perspective…We’re officiating ultimate, the way the players have grown up expecting sporting events to be officiated and quite frankly….we’re cool.”
Both Gerics and Series Manager Jason Weddle has high expectations on the weekend and see this as the beginning of something that may change the way the sport is organized. “It’ll be a historic event,” notes Gerics. “This is the beginning…..our eyes are on the horizon.”
Is this the start of some competition for USAU? This weekend will certainly be the first big test.