Student throwing Frisbee


By Greg Breining
If you need any evidence of how important Frisbee is to Carleton, consider this: prospective students receive a Frisbee as part of their introduction to the college, and incoming freshmen receive a disc printed with their graduating year. Indeed, Frisbee permeates the Carleton culture: from friendly games on the Bald Spot to the college’s powerhouse Ultimate Frisbee teams that compete—and win—against Division I teams nationwide.

Men playing UltimateMen playing Ultimate

“No other small liberal arts colleges have Ultimate teams that participate in D1. And we’ve won four national championships at that level,” says Brent “Rex” Nystrom ’92. “It stands out. It is unique to Carleton.”

In 1963, about five years after Wham-O introduced the Frisbee, the Carletonian reported that “one of Carleton’s own peculiar signs of spring is the fiercely competitive frisbee game.… A game of frisbee can be found just about anywhere on campus, for where there is a field, there is a frick [a Frisbee jock].”

By 1977 Ultimate Frisbee, a team mash-up of Frisbee and football (or soccer or maybe hockey) was popular on campus. That same year, a presumably facetious letter in the Carleton Daily decried the “dangerous, wasteful, and fruitless pursuit of playing frisbee. Frisbees are running (floating?) rampant on this campus!”

Intramural Ultimate teams were organized during the 1980s. Intramural organizer Dan McCreary ’82 declared Frisbee a “sport and a philosophy, not just a fad.” By the end of the decade, nearly 50 intramural teams played. “Back then, it was pervasive,” says Nystrom. “Just about every floor in every dorm had an intramural Ultimate team.”

Women playing UltimateWomen playing Ultimate

Women players organized an intercollegiate team (now known as Syzygy), and men started CUT (Carleton Ultimate Team), and wagered which would reach nationals first. The women won, competing at nationals in 1988. Since then, the men have made their mark, winning three national championships against much larger schools in 2001, 2009, and 2011. The women won the championship in 2000 and have made it to the finals four additional times.

When a separate Division III level debuted in 2010, Carleton added men’s team GOP (Gods of Plastic) and women’s team Eclipse. GOP won the men’s championship title in 2010 and 2012, and Eclipse won the women’s title in 2011 and 2016.

But why has Frisbee become so popular on campus? “It’s an athletic game at the highest levels, but it’s also a thinking person’s game,” says Nystrom, who played for CUT in 1990– 92. “It’s a fun game that anybody can play, even if you’re not into sports. And, as far as team sports go, it’s something students can rally around.”

Despite the success of Carleton’s Ultimate teams, it’s probably the freshman toss—held each year on the Bald Spot during New Student Week—when the Carleton president joins incoming students and they all throw their Frisbees in the air, that best represents the tie between the college and the disc.

“That’s how pervasive Frisbee is in the Carleton culture,” says Nystrom. “I mean, where else are you going to see that?”

Add a comment

The following fields are not to be filled out. Skip to Submit Button.
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)
(This is here to trap robots. Don't put any text here.)