On Nov. 12, the day of the annual Homecoming football game between Pomona-Pitzer (P-P) and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS), the athletic department at CMS sent an e-mail to students informing them that wearing the popular “Puck Fomona” t-shirts would prevent them from entering the game, highlighting a number of issues that have been brought up in recent years surrounding the “Sixth Street Rivalry.”
Tensions between the two teams, and particularly between Pomona College and Claremont McKenna College (CMC), have been on the rise over the past decade, according to Director of CMS Athletics Michael Sutton, who coached CMS Water Polo before taking his current position.
“I don’t think that the general tenor of our society was as negative or as critical [when I coached] as it [is] today,” he said. “I think there’s a difference there. It just wasn’t okay to be profane, and now it seems like it’s okay.”
Fans of the “Puck Fomona” slogan, however, said they did not think the shirts were intended in a spirit of unsportsmanlike conduct and questioned the ban.
“This is another instance of our administration trying to control our behaviors through policy,” said one CMC senior, who asked to remain anonymous. “I don’t think that’s an effective way to reach the student body, and I don’t think that the shirts are really that offensive anyways. Pomona-Pitzer has shirts that are in my opinion just as profane.”
The Pomona-Pitzer shirts, which display a graphic that can be folded horizontally to read “F— CMS,” are sold by Jake Rollins PO ’13, a linebacker on the football team.
“I don’t feel that the ban will reduce the animosity between the schools,” Rollins said of CMS’s decision to ban “Puck Fomona” t-shirts. “I don’t think that the ban makes a difference. They have their shirts and we have our shirts. We understand that it’s a rivalry—I like that rivalry.”
Rollins, who has sold around 150-200 “F— CMS” shirts over the past two years, said the shirts date back several years, when another student developed the concept. “Two years ago, I bought the remaining shirts from a senior who was graduating and then reprinted them,” he said.
Some students said they felt the shirts highlighted tensions specifically between Pomona and CMC.
“I do think [the “Puck Fomona” t-shirts] were created out of animosity for Pomona students,” said Travis Muraoka PZ ’13, a P-P receiver who was sidelined earlier in the season by a foot fracture. “The animosity seems directed towards Pomona, not Pitzer students.”
Sutton maintained that the shirts send a negative message despite their contribution to what is otherwise a healthy rivalry between the colleges.
“To be honest, I hate the Puck Fomona thing,” he said. “I don’t think it represents our institution well or the great rivalry we have. It really disrespects our opponents.”
“[This is] about sportsmanship more than anything else,” Sutton added. “But it’s also about how we represent ourselves as an institution.”
Supporters of the shirts suggested that the ban could actually increase their popularity. “The e-mail was great publicity for the tanks,” Miles Bird CM ’12 told the Claremont Port Side.
“That goes back to human nature,” Muraoka said of the possibility that the e-mail might add to the popularity of the shirts. “When we’re told we can’t have something, we want it more, so by banning the shirts they probably will become more popular.”
Sutton acknowledged that the ban could increase sales, but he stood by the athletic department’s decision.
“I have no control over what goes on in the dorms, but we’re responsible for promoting good sportsmanship,” he said.
Upon investigation, it appears that at Harvey Mudd College (HMC) and Scripps College, which contribute the “M” and “S” in “CMS,” a mention of the “Puck Fomona” t-shirts is likely to be met with blank stares.
“The what? I’ve never seen those,” said Stephen Pinto HM ’13 when asked about the shirts.
Sutton said he hopes the “Sixth Street Rivalry” will move in a more positive direction following the ban.
“The fact of the matter is we’ve got really talented people running around these colleges. If you get students leading the change then you have some real positive changes going on,” he said. “I hope students can ask themselves, ‘What’s the right way to support our teams?’ I coached here for a long, long time and I never feel like we made any headway when we dogged our opponents.”