Story by: Nick Wright & Aleks Bomis
The following is an excerpt from a message board post recounting the league’s history. A more detailed account may be available the near future.
First exhibition match in college dodgeball history (as far as we know): Ohio State at Kent State. Ohio State won, although the rules were much different, the atmosphere much more of a friendly game to have fun than an actual match. The first real game in the league with two teams and set rules was Delta v MSU, where MSU won. Bomis obviously got the ball rolling on that one as the captain for MSU and as far as I can recall, Ben Murphy acted as such for Delta. This match was the first “Michigan Dodgeball Cup.”
That was the only “regular season” game that year (2004-2005). The then titled “Spartan Dodgeball Invitational (SDI)” acted as the inaugural MDC championship tournament and featured 5 teams: MSU, Delta, Ohio State, Kent State and DePaul, with Nebraska being invited but not showing.
I believe the Saturday round robin portion went as follows:
OSU 6-0 (def Kent St twice, def Delta twice, def MSU, def DePaul)
Kent St 4-2 (def MSU twice, def DePaul, def Delta, loss OSU twice)
DePaul 3-3 (def MSU twice, def Delta, loss Kent St, loss OSU)
MSU 1-4-1 (def Delta, tie Delta, loss Kent twice, loss OSU, loss DePaul twice)
Delta 0-5-1 (loss OSU twice, loss MSU, loss Kent St, loss DePaul, tie MSU)
The Sunday portion of the tournament featured the top 4 teams (Delta did not play because at the time they were not an official organization/club within their school yet, so were deemed ineligible. I imagine part of it also had to do with the uneven number of teams and the amount of times that we were able to use the facilities that we were in.)
Kent St def DePaul
OSU def MSU
OSU def Kent St 4-2 (OSU trailed 2-1 at halftime)
The next year was the first full year of the league where there was a regular season. Oakland University, Kentucky and of course, GVSU, made their debuts this season. I wish I had the full regular season standings (maybe I can dig them up in another place that I wrote them down, but most of my record keeping of this time period was on the old OSU dodgeball website which was through the now defunct Geocities hosting site).
The only thing I can state for sure is that this year featured the first Ohio State Invitational, which was supposed to be Ohio State, Kentucky and Kent State. Kent State ended up not being able to make it, so it was just OSU welcoming Kentucky into the league by winning 16-4 (The regulation time score was something like 8-2 and we just kept playing for another hour or two since we had the gym space rented.)
I know GVSU stormed onto the scene and dispatched of Delta and MSU in a few individual matches, and then again in the Michigan Dodgeball Cup, so they ended the regular season ranked #1. Both GVSU and OSU were the only undefeated teams that season, but GVSU had played several more regular season games than OSU.
If I’m not mistaken, DePaul hosted their first tournament that year too, which consisted of themselves, MSU, Kentucky and Kansas State, who actually had a team. I think I’m forgetting another team that participated in this one (Delta, maybe), but I know it wasnt GVSU, Kent or OSU. I remember hearing that this tournament was pretty evenly matched and every team had at least one win and at least one loss in the round robin portion. I’m 99% sure MSU won this tournament because I remember Bomis being all excited and telling me all about it in an AIM conversation, adding that the talk of the tournament was “How good GVSU was,” “The Matrix guy has a cannon for an arm” and “Everyone is afraid of OSU’s Big Jon.”
Delta was also vastly improved during the regular season. I remember being really surprised at the number of matches they ended up playing that year (something like 12 or 16 games) and won roughly half of them–they mostly played vs MSU, Oakland and GVSU. I cant remember if Henry Ford Community College, Alma, or Wayne State had a team this year that they played against. Either those colleges had a team and played once or twice, or they were rumored to be starting teams and they didnt quite get off the ground in time for this season. I wanna say they went to the DePaul tournament as well…so they had pretty much played every team in the league at least once except for the two Ohio teams by the time the National Tournament came around.
We went into the 2006 NCDA championship tournament with 8 teams:
GVSU, OSU, Kent St, MSU, Delta, DePaul, Oakland and Kentucky (Kentucky ended up not coming due to financial reasons). They were replaced by a “JV” team (I believe from GVSU, or possibly MSU) to even out the number of games each team would play in the round robin. Because of the increased number of teams, the round robin portion of the tournament was divided into two pools based on regular season rankings/winning percentage/whatever
Pool A: GVSU, Kent St, MSU, GVSU JV
Pool B: OSU, Delta, DePaul, Oakland
Each team would play the other three teams in the pool once. This was due to there being a lot of arm fatigue by the end of the first day in the first year’s tournament.
The results from Day 1:
GVSU : 3-0
Kent St: 2-1
GVSU JV: 0-3
Delta: 1-2 (to be honest, I dont remember who won the Delta/DePaul game…couldve been Delta)
So the Single Elimination Championships went like this:
MSU def Kent St
Delta def DePaul (these two matches were the first two held as we only had two courts to play on)
OSU def Oakland (Oakland conceded defeat at halftime, the second half was a massive free-for all among all interested players from any team. Actually this was the highlight of the tournament, lots of fun)
GVSU was awarded a first round bye for being undefeated in round robin play and having more wins in the regular season than OSU
GVSU def MSU
OSU def Delta
MSU and Delta elected to not play the game and split 3rd place, possibly due to time constraints.
OSU def GVSU 2-1. GVSU led 1-0 at halftime. They won the first game fairly decisively, but then the second game was very drawn out and ended up going all the way to halftime without a point being scored. OSU then came out and won their own fairly decisive game to start the second half. The final full game of the match was a pretty extensive one with that at one point was a 7 on 5 OSU advantage, but then OSU got a couple huge plays to close it out and was able to take the lead with about 2 or 3 minutes left in the second half. GVSU came out blazing, but there just wasnt enough time for them to mount a comeback. This game also got pretty heated at times, but afterwards there was good sportsmanship on both sides and despite this matchup being hyped pretty much all season and it being really close, both sides left with a lot of respect for each other. OSU has since always held GVSU in high regard both in terms of ability (obviously) but also in terms of sportsmanship.
After that, I graduated, moved down south and didn’t get to be part of the league in any fashion in 2007, even as a spectator. So beyond 2006, I cant give you and specific details besides that the next two seasons also featured championship games with GVSU and OSU squaring off but with GVSU winning both of them.
As I can recall, the original founders and captains of the early clubs were:
Kent State: Olsen Ebright (team may have been founded even before him, but he was their primary contact person in 2002-2003). He also came to OSU to represent them when the Today Show from NBC came to film a segment about dodgeball–something which was originally supposed to happen at Kent State, but they were between semesters when NBC wanted to shoot the film, so they came to OSU instead. The clip ended up being less about the growth of dodgeball as a sport at the collegiate level and more as a cheap tie in to the stupid Dodgeball movie. I’m not sure specifically who Kent’s captain(s) were once the NCDA began, but Nick Fantozzi was one of the leaders of the group and was our main contact person when we wanted to get in touch with them for a game.
Ohio State: Considered to be founded by Gavin Mueller and Todd Burns in 1999-2000 (both graduated and moved on before the MDC/NCDA was even an idea). Marc Ybarsabal was then the captain and primary contact for the first season in 2005, with Joe Ryan as the assistant captain. Marc graduated in ’05 and then Joe was the Captain with Zack Mylander and Nick Wright (myself) as the alternate captains. All 3 of us graduated in ’06 and we passed the titles on to Dave Shaffstall and Alex Young after that.
As stated before, Bomis obviously got MSU’s team off the ground and from what I understand, Ben Murphy for Delta (I’m not sure if there were any co-captains or alternate captains for them during the first year of their existence).
I know DePaul dodgeball also existed well before the creation of the NCDA (I believe they were the oldest club in the league predating the year 2000 if I’m not mistaken). I can’t say for sure who founded them, but Ryan “Magoo” McGeehan was their typical contact person in the first two years of the league. For the life of me I cannot remember the name of the other captain that they had, who was a very good player and was a real nice guy in the multiple times I met him. Sorry, I’d know his name if I heard it but I can’t pull it out of my head right now.
I wish I had specific scores of all the games, but at the time, I dont think anyone really knew what the league was going to morph into and that detailed record keeping beyond the very basics was going to be a worthwhile use of time. If I got anything wrong with this, I apologize, but to the best of my knowledge this is all accurate.
The big thing you need to remember is that for the first 3 or 4 years we inflated the dodgeballs until they were taught. It wasn’t really by design, it just started that way. I can’t imagine playing in the racquetball courts like MSU did those first two years with the throwing speeds people have now. Teams still tried to grip throw, but it wasn’t nearly as fast and you’d often get cases of people’s fingers bleeding from trying to curve the ball inward. I checked out some old footage recently, it looked tame compared to what goes on today. The other important thing to remember is that the shot clock only existed when you had all ten balls, so a 9-on-1 situation could be held indefinitely. There was also no “legit throw” clause, so you’d see some teams *cough cough* roll a ball to the other side to keep from having all 10.
Murphy sent me an email asking if we wanted to play a game, which sounded fun so naturally we accepted. There was a second place plaque and a tarnished little cup for the winner. This cup became the top of the Michigan Dodgeball Cup trophy (which I’m told is made of solid silver). We showed up at some church/community center and played for about an hour. The church staff was ticked because dodgeballs kept hitting the radiator panels, making these awful crashing noises. MSU won 8-3, I’ve got some pics stored on my laptop at home.
Yeah, the real reason Delta couldn’t play Sunday of that first tournament was because I just couldn’t work out a schedule that first year. There was a “must be a student organization” rule which everyone knew about heading in, but Ben seemed to really want it for his group so I figured what the heck, let ’em play on Saturday. I remember the last OSU/MSU score being 8-4.
GVSU… my hatred of them was pre-ordained for so many reasons with that first game. We had to reschedule that game a bunch of times. It wasn’t Dave Soukup’s fault, the athletic department was just being a pain, and then we realized we had scheduled a game on Super Bowl Sunday, so we had to move it again. I was actually fairly upbeat with that first 4-2 loss, we had come off a much-closer-than-it-shoulda-been W against Delta, having goofed around much of the game, but we’d actually tried at GVSU. They wore blue their first year and hadn’t figured out how to be this unstoppable force – yet. I managed to imitate Izzo while I was there – he wasn’t having the best season, and earlier that week while trailing he had called timeout a split second before Mo Ager nailed a 3. The second string team was trailing in the closing minute of the half, Mike Youngs is the only one left, I call timeout so I can sub in Rob Freeman, who was a defensive master… and he makes a catch from about 15 feet away. Rob gets hit about 10 seconds in. Youngs was LIVID. And to be fair I was getting overcompetitive at that point.
Michigan Dodgeball Cup came down to the final seconds, with a throw at Kevin Hankinson going in and out of his hands for the GVSU win. It was tough to call that one from the booth, but it made for a heck of a finish.
The extra team at DePaul’s Chicago Open was Kansas State. Everyone was drained by the time we got to the end, but we managed to pull that one out and sing the fight song and everything. I was almost bouncing off the walls because we had actually managed to string some Ws together after struggling most of the year, Rob Viola got a game-saving OT catch between his legs (I think against Delta). I’m also pretty sure DePaul had some footage of Nick Gebauer getting clocked by a Kansas State player, I mean right into his face.
Oh, and a funny story I just remembered! So like I mentioned earlier, there wasn’t any shotclock rule, and you could roll a ball to the other side and there wasn’t anything in the rules to stop it. Delta had been catching some flak by this point in the year for not doing anything unless they had at least 7 or 8. DePaul decided to flip the script on them, not doing a thing unless they had all 10 balls. Not knowing DePaul’s plan, I wander over to check their score at halftime: 1-0 DePaul. I check back at the end of the game, same score. I look at Murphy who’s passing me. “Don’t even TALK to me, Bomis!” Once we found out what DePaul did we couldn’t stop giggling. I think Viola applauded.
MSU managed to score huge on the fundraising front and had enough money to rent a bus for a rare fall Thursday night game at Grand Valley. Once we got there, it was clear they were on a mission, destroying us 16-0. Black eyes and bruises abounded. I remember the newer guys begging me to put up a fight with the refs or Soukup, but the truth of it was we were just plain getting stomped. At one point the crowd started laughing at Freeman who’d been laid out and wasn’t moving (eventually he rolled under the net/wall just behind the baseline) and no one appeared to be doing anything to help him. At that point I snapped and blindsided Dave with a rant that I’m not even sure made sense, but I was getting on him for everything and anything. Amazingly enough, we didn’t lose any of the people who were at that game.
State won in overtime vs. Delta later that month, with Gerald Hessell hitting Dave Halloran with about :40 to go in regulation. Later that year they’d have their first lost to DC in Saginaw, and again at the MDC that February, the last televised game MSU had. Oakland was kind enough to serve as sacrificial lambs in the dodgeball halftime show for the basketball doubleheader.
OSU put together the spring tournament, but for whatever reason that fell through in March and in 24 hours I was somehow able to cobble together enough court time to host in April. Marshall tackled a GVSU player at one point, MSU lost either 8-1 or 8-0 to GVSU, and GVSU finally beat Ohio State.