Class Competitions/ Tug of War

Given to the University of Kentucky by the Class of 2012, Historical Marker #2392 commemorates the Class Competitions and Tug of War that were held annually on UK's campus. In the 1900s, these competitions between the freshman and sophomore classes were held at campuses all over America.

Rivalry between the freshman and sophomore classes usually reached a high pitch in the early fall and culminated in the annual flag rush. This attempt on the part of the men of each class to capture the other's flag usually developed into a free-for-all fight with injuries on both sides. In the fall of 1911, the year that Judge Barker became the second president of UK, he called the freshman and sophomore class presidents into a conference and asked that they use their influence to bring this custom to an end. The combined effort was successful and no flag rush took place that year.

The next fall, when President Barker was out of town, the freshmen voted in favor of renewing the custom. However, the vice president persuaded them to wait until Barker returned before taking any action. Upon his return, he gave his reasons for opposing the flag rush. Once again, he was successful. He realized, however, that the students needed an occasional outlet for their energies, and that class rivalry was not an emotion easy to stop. So, in 1913, he donated a heavy cable and suggested that the freshman and sophomores settle the question of relative strength by a tug of war.

The cable was stretched across Clifton Pond, a block east of the campus, and the members of the two classes seized opposite ends and began to pull. The freshmen got wet, and the sophomores celebrated victory by going downtown together. The following fall, a half-day holiday was given and the contest was held, again. This time the freshmen, by force of numbers, dragged the sophomores through the pond. Due to the larger size of the freshman class, they were usually victorious, so in 1923, teams of equal sizes were established.