The Creighton national championship contender you don’t know about
Will a “change of decoration” atop the national collegiate quidditch rankings be in order this weekend after No. 2 Creighton faces No. 1 Texas? Creighton will host the 2021 Bluejay Quidditch Classic on Saturday in the Rasmussen Center.
The one-day, eight-match tournament will take place from noon to 8 p.m. and will involve Creighton’s varsity and junior varsity teams, along with Texas and Kansas. Creighton, ranked No. 2 nationally in the quidditch coaches poll, will face No. 1 Texas at 2 p.m.
The matches are free and open to the public. Members of the general public, regardless of vaccination status, are expected to wear face coverings indoors on campus, and are asked to check in at the front desk. Bleachers will be set up around the playing area, and spectators may also watch from the elevated running track.
A squad of some 20 Creighton University students, convening at the Rasmussen Fitness & Sports Center on campus, stares intently at a computer screen as their coach describes the tactics and strategies typically deployed by the University of Texas Longhorns.
Ranked No. 1 in the nation in the quidditch coaches poll, the Longhorns will visit Creighton Saturday for the 2021 Bluejay Quidditch Classic, with a matchup against No. 2 Creighton set for 2 p.m. Quidditch is a club sport that has gained popularity on college campuses.
Creighton coach Curtis Taylor tells his rapt audience that this Saturday’s match is an opportunity for the 17-0 Bluejays to stake their claim to a No. 1 national ranking heading into next spring’s national championship tournament, where, as recent victors of the Midwest Regional Championship and Great Lakes Regional Championship, they have every possibility of emerging as national champions.
Heady stuff. No. 2 ranking. National championship. University of Texas coming to town. Sports Illustrated seems to have missed the story. Such is the fate of pioneers.
Nearly 100 Universities Field Teams
“There are a lot of people who are really passionate about quidditch,” says Sena Morimoto, a senior exercise science major and captain of Creighton’s quidditch team. “It's being played all over the country. Right now, just a little shy of 100 universities have teams.”
Quidditch, the imaginary sport cooked up by British author J.K. Rowling, plays a central role in her famous books about the adventures of boy wizard Harry Potter. Surely, however, she never imagined that the flying broomsticks, quaffles and golden snitches of her imaginary game would morph into real-world competitions involving thousands of athletes and even a world cup tournament.
Morimoto, a native of Hawaii, says the sport’s identification with the Harry Potter novels is something its proponents are trying to transcend.
“We are trying to make it its own sport on its own,” he says. “The beginning of the sport had everything to do with Harry Potter and the books, but quidditch now attracts real athletes and is becoming a serious athletic sport.”
When quidditch first leapt into the real world some 15 years ago, its practitioners were more into fantasy than the bruising reality of the current game. Unlike the flying wizards of Potter World, they ran around the quidditch field with bristled broomsticks held between their legs. Those broomsticks are now specially designed PVC sticks that quidditch players, in a nod to their sport’s origin, continue to call broomsticks. The stick is critical since it transforms quidditch into a one-handed game. Two hands may be used, but that requires using one’s thighs to support the stick, which hobbles a player’s ability to run.
A co-ed sport that embodies elements of dodgeball, basketball and volleyball, quidditch races from end to end with great rapidity as players attempt to toss a ball through one of three vertical hoops, gaining 10 points each time they succeed.
'Coed Rugby with a Broom'
Taylor, whose full-time role at Creighton is assistant director of multicultural organization and planning in the Division of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion’s Creighton Intercultural Center, is a quidditch player and coach of long standing. He created the quidditch program at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, before taking up his duties at Creighton in 2015.
So, in 2016, when some Creighton students expressed interest in starting a quidditch club, Taylor took on the task. Like Morimoto, Taylor says quidditch is fast transcending its fantasy origins.
“About half of our players have never read, seen or done anything with Harry Potter,” he says. “I recruit athletes. It’s basically full-contact coed rugby with a broom. It’s just a lot of fun.”
And, he said, Creighton quidditch is flying high.
“We have 23 new kids this year,” he says. “We have kids who have played for four years, kids who have just started. A lot of college quidditch programs are really struggling right now, but we are lucky enough to have enough players for two teams.”