View Full Version : The end of ‘naked soccer’

05-06-2005, 03:46 AM
Can't understand why anyone ever thought this was a good idea to begin with.


What could be more innocent than a naked bout with a soccer ball?

As this year’s seniors depart, the tradition of what is known as naked soccer appears to be over, as they are the last class to have experienced it first hand.

Allegedly, naked soccer began in 1991 with a few senior men during senior week.

Ann Highum, vice president and dean for Student Life, reports, “They’d leave their clothes on the porch of campus house and just run around for a few minutes.”

It didn’t take very long for the event to gain popularity, and in a few years, the event was occurring multiple nights with two to four dozen participants and 100-150 spectators.

The event was more or less endured by the administration. Campus security set up around the periphery to keep outsiders away.

Until 1997, there was no known significant violence associated with the event, and the damage seemed to be limited to complaints of noise and disruption. In that year, the event seemed to be developing what Highum describes as a “mob mentality.”

Fire alarms were pulled, there was an incident of sexual abuse, a serious leg injury and harassment of police officers and faculty members.

In 1998, “positive and affirming” alternative activities were implemented by the administration.

Faculty and staff volunteered to serve students food over the course of a few nights, staying up into the wee hours flipping free pancakes. In spite of these activities, the nude activities continued.

By 2001, the steadily growing crowd of participants peaked at 125 participants and 550-600 observers.

In the midst of final exams, there were incidents of fireworks set off in the crowd, various fights and sexual abuse. The security officers reported that the event had grown “out of control.”

“By the time I arrived, [naked soccer] clearly had become dangerous,” Dean Craft said.

“There were hundreds of people on the library lawn, many of them not sober, fireworks, people coming to watch and various injuries.”

Many students did not feel threatened by the communal nudity and enjoyed the break from finals.

As an observer in her first year, Kelly Offerman (‘05) said, “The atmosphere was fun, and the participants looked like they felt liberated.”

The college began to look for options to stop the game.

A task force was formed of nine students and seven staff and faculty members to implement the cessation of the activities.

Inevitably, it all fell to President Torgerson, who discussed the issue with student senate and community assembly.

Torgerson issued a message on April 24, 2002 to the Luther community canceling naked soccer. In addition, he met them in an all-campus meeting in the Center for Faith and Life, where he heard their questions and concerns.

“On one hand, the administration needs to maintain the schools credibility among prospectives and stakeholders,” said Offerman.

“On the other hand they need to create a fun and enriching learning environment for its current students. I know I would not have wanted to make that choice.”

“The President took an awful lot of flack for [canceling naked soccer],” said Highum.

Many students felt that naked soccer was their right. The administration also received many e-mails from alumni who were frustrated at the cancellation of such a remarkable tradition. They felt the administration was being prudish.

In his letter, Torgerson wrote, “Naked soccer may have once been a harmless event, but it has become a danger and disruption that this campus community cannot ignore. Customs and traditions are important, but when the risk of doing something outweighs the reward, we need to reconsider.”

“News of naked soccer has reached across the country and globe, portraying it as a public event, and it is only a matter of time before we had even more unknown people coming to watch,” he wrote.

Naked soccer at Luther has been featured in USA Today, the Associated Press and the BBC.

Some alumni have reported being questioned about the tradition during job interviews, having attended “that naked soccer college.”

“Do you want to be known as graduating from a college known for naked soccer?” said Highum.

The consequences for students playing naked soccer are subject to a $250 fine, a year of disciplinary probation, be denied work-study and be immediately expelled from their residence halls.

“If you want to be naked, don’t do it in public on our campus,” said Highum.


Kendra Swanson