For some UCLA students, watching football at the Rose Bowl is enough. For some, playing intramural flag football is enough. But for a few UCLA football enthusiasts, extramural flag football allows them to get down and dirty against other schools without the rigor of playing at the club or NCAA level.
The regional extramural tournament, which was held at UCLA last year, pits the best intramural flag football teams from all across the West Coast against each other to play for a chance to compete at the national championships. Last year, UCLA sent an “A” squad and a “B” squad, pulled from the ranks of the many different intramural teams.
“I’ve always played football, but a lot of times it isn’t competitive,” said Andrew Haupt, a fourth-year physiological science student who participated in extramural football last year.
“But when you’re pitted against other schools, it gives a whole new level of excitement ““ like you’re playing for something. It brings out your UCLA pride.”
For some students, however, the tournament offers something much different than the chance to compete for UCLA.
Of the dozens of UCLA students employed as referees by UCLA Recreation, the best are chosen to officiate games at the tournament.
And although each school sending referees to officiate their schoolmates may seem like an opportunity for preferential treatment, past referees insist there is never an issue of bias.
“There is no real blatant bias at the tournament because we are the best of our schools and so (we) know how not to be biased,” said David Hou, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student and a veteran extramural referee, who added that he has even been congratulated by players after games for his professionalism.
These high levels of officiating come with little formal preparation, leaving the referees to rely on their experiences in intramural athletics.
Hou said the only preparation they received for the tournament was a clinic a few weeks beforehand, during which veteran referees gave lectures and advice to newcomers.
But while they may not be the center of attention at the regional tournament, the referees are involved in a competition of their own. Hou said only the most impressive referees are invited to be officials at the National Flag Football Championships.
“Usually at (that) point in the tournament, you have the best referees in the state,” Hou said. “Some of the referees are as ambitious as the players, just bent on going to Nationals.”
But for Hou, the point of refereeing is less about moving up the ranks and more about enjoying the ride.
“Personally, becoming a national referee is not that important to me,” Hou said. “I look forward more to interacting with really good referees, meeting really cool people, and being able to put it on my resume. I’m there for the experience.”
Hou is not the only one to enjoy the unique experience of extramural football.
Chris Migdal, a fourth-year psychobiology student, enjoyed it so much that he is now working on starting a longer-term flag extramural flag football league.
“We were looking for higher competition than an IM league, and we definitely got that through this tournament,” said Migdal, who played on Haupt’s team last year.
Migdal and his teammates plan on using the upcoming Sports Jamboree ““ where all the athletic organizations of UCLA Recreation set up tables on the IM field to recruit new students ““ to gauge student interest in the idea. For now, however, they are just focusing on refining their game should the idea become a reality.
“Basically right now we are a team that goes out once a week and practices,” he said. “(But) we have a good time doing that.”