The Hope College Pull tug-of-war, a 118-year tradition, will be held on Saturday, Sept. 26, at 3 p.m. on the banks of the Black River (near U.S. 31 and M-21). The public is invited. Admission is free.
The Pull, first held in 1898, is an annual fall highlight at Hope. In the competition, freshman and sophomore teams, entrenched in shallow pits on opposite sides of the river, attempt to gain the most rope through their strength and stamina.
Each team has 18 students on the rope as “pullers” and another 18 acting as guides and morale boosters, or “moralers.” The freshmen are coached by the junior class while the sophomores are instructed by the seniors. The coaching arrangement also leads to a rivalry between the even-year and odd-year classes.
This year’s Pull will pit members of the Classes of 2018 (sophomores) and 2019 (freshmen) against one another. The sophomore Class of 2017 team won last year’s Pull, which was held on Saturday, Sept. 27.
The sophomore Class of 2018 will be on the south (gas station) side of the river, and the freshman Class of 2019 will be on the north (railroad) side of the river.
In 1977, the Pull set a record for length and uniqueness. The freshmen and sophomores tugged for three hours and 51 minutes before judges called a tie due to darkness. In contrast, the shortest Pull lasted two minutes and 40 seconds in 1956.
New rules were implemented in 1978, following the 1977 marathon, limiting the event’s duration. The rules now allow the judges to determine the winning class by measuring the amount of rope pulled from the other team if one team has not claimed all of the rope within three hours.
Through the years, the sophomores and even-year classes have held the edge in the win-loss column. Since 1909, the sophomores have taken 67 contests to the freshman class’s 31; the even-year/odd-year split for the same period is 55 to 43.
There have been four draws and four cancellations since 1909.