The sport without shorts
This spring marks the 10th anniversary of a controversial event in Luther’s history – the banning of an event dubbed “naked soccer.”
This legendary game, initiated in 1991 by a few students as a low-key senior week event, came to be known as a rite of passage, a last chance to do something rebellious and cathartic with each other before graduation.
Its escalation throughout the subsequent decade, however, led to the inclusion of alcohol, underclassmen, high school students, an audience from outside Luther and fireworks, which drew attention from law enforcement.
The event even achieved international attention in the spring of 1997 when an intoxicated student was arrested for trying to take a video camera from a police officer taping for evidence of indecent exposure.
In 2001, when the event drew an estimated 500 people over several nights during finals week, President Torgerson decided to address the issue. Faculty and students met throughout the spring of 2002 to formulate official sanctions.
“There was talk of withholding diplomas if students were caught, but the president didn’t accept that,” Dean of Student Life Ann Highum said. “He thought it was too harsh. But there are some pretty serious implications.”
These “serious implications” include city and state misdemeanor fines ranging from $250 to $1,500 and up to 30 days of jail time. Sanctions against participants currently remain the same compared with previous years.
“Anything that’s dangerous or unsafe which also involves nudity has another layer of negativity to it,” Highum said. “If you’re arrested it becomes a matter of public record. It can affect your entire future and career.”
Highum emphasized themes of sexual harassment, safety and the possibility of students having to register as sex offenders if caught.
Three students were cited during the spring of 2002, sounding a death knell to the bare-bodied romp. A variety of opinions circulated at the time. Some considered it a sacred tradition, others an inappropriate offense to Luther’s sense of community and still more couldn’t see why it was such a hot topic.
Director of Public Information Jerry Johnson thought banning the event gave Luther a “stuffy, anti-fun and self-righteous” reputation, albeit notice from the larger world and even an increase in applicants.
Torgerson, however, asserted that Luther’s reputation as ‘the naked soccer college’ “will be less humorous ... when someone is hired or promoted ahead of you because they graduated from a prestigious college and you graduated from ‘the naked soccer college.’”
Ten years later, talk of the event remains but seems to be unaccompanied by action.
“I didn’t realize that it still goes on or was even an issue,” Christina Storlie (‘13) said.
Others feel a revival is justified.
“I’m in full approval of naked soccer,” Jon Koch (‘12) said. “In my personal opinion there are few things as wholesome as some good old-fashioned American nudity.”
This is the attitude Highum fears.
“Students presently on campus don’t know the context,” Highum said. “Some are probably thinking ‘what’s the big deal?’ I’m not about taking away everybody’s fun, but there is a potential for things to get out of hand.”
Highum explained that the college is taking measures to prevent the event from occurring.
“We’re short staffed in security this month,” Highum said. “So we’re hiring Decorah police officers to work extra duty on campus for the end of the semester.”