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Autumn 2002 | Volume 25, Number 4 | Athletics
Friendly Competition
Kellogg Has Built SPU’s Intramural Program Into One of the Nation’s Largest

YOU MIGHT GUESS that Falcon athletes constitute only a small minority of Seattle Pacific University students. And you’d be simultaneously right and wrong. One hundred and seventy-two athletes play varsity sports at SPU. That’s roughly 5 percent of the student body.
But many more students participate in intramural sports — an informal but highly organized program that promotes friendly competition between individuals, small teams or entire residence floors. Seattle Pacific’s intramural program is one of the largest among small private universities, and student involvement hovers between 70 and 80 percent — one of the highest rates in the nation.
Intramural and club sports are a longstanding tradition at SPU, going back almost to day one. The program’s enormous success, however, is a more recent phenomenon.

“When I came in 1977, there weren’t many activities,” recalls Director of Intramural and Club Sports Howie Kellogg. “Just basketball, softball and football, and there were only five events in the entire Autumn Quarter. There was even talk of taking the program away from the Athletic Department.” But by offering more activities, Kellogg was able to raise interest and involvement almost immediately. Aside from the three years he spent in graduate school at the University of Minnesota, he’s been at SPU ever since.

“Howie is one of the most underrated people at SPU,” says Jared Skeith ’98, who worked with Kellogg for three years as student commissioner of officials. “He has such a positive effect on hundreds of students. And he’s so dedicated. There were times I had to kick him out of the gym: ‘Howie, go home, I’ll take care of this.’”

Students are drawn to intramurals for a variety of reasons. Some played football or baseball in high school — sports that aren’t part of SPU’s varsity program. Some, like Cyrena “CyCy” Bell ’02, participated in intramurals to “release energy, have fun, and relieve some of the pressure that builds up when you’re studying.”

Intramurals may be fun, but Kellogg takes his job seriously. His program operates as a fully functioning league, replete with tournaments, rankings, officials and gift certificates as prizes. Teams and players register through a Web site that also displays scores, schedules and standings. There are at least 35 sports, with multiple activities nearly every week. And to raise funds, he also opens Seattle Pacific facilities to church leagues and alumni teams: “I have softball teams who graduated a long time ago that still play together in the summer. For some of them, it’s the only time they see each other.”

Along with the usual activities, like basketball, softball, volleyball and football, Kellogg offers some more obscure choices: badminton, bowling, chess, floor hocke y and pickleball (which drew record 64 teams last year). In fact, one obscure sport led to the SPU intramural program’s own 15 minutes of fame. The year was 1986, and the sport was Lazer Tag, a sort of high-tech paintball game. The Seattle Pacific team won second place in a nationwide tournament, garnering international media coverage — which, Kellogg chuckles, was the envy of his colleagues in the varsity sports programs. The team’s $4,000 prize went back into the intramural budget: Kellogg used it to buy floor hockey equipment.

Never complacent, Kellogg constantly tries new approaches. One major change came about 10 years back, when he noticed that attitude problems were getting out of hand among some players. After comparing notes, Kellogg and other intramural directors devised a 10-point sportsmanship rating system. Now officials grade teams on their behavior during games, and teams have to maintain a rating of 7.0 to participate in tournaments. “We had a floor hockey team one time that was undefeated but didn’t make the playoffs,” he says.

Aside from physical fitness benefits and practical lessons in teamwork and sportsmanship, Kellogg says his program helps SPU retain students, because those who are involved and enjoying themselves are more likely to stay. Finally, he adds, intramurals break down social barriers and help students build friendships: “It doesn’t matter if they walk away winning or losing; they walk away together.”


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