It wasn't exactly mud wrestling, but Thursday's coed foam football contest was probably as close as Brigham Young University students can get.
"I've never seen anything like it," said freshman Russ Lay. "We were falling on our keisters all the time. You don't want to eat this stuff. I tasted it, and it's soapy."Lay's team of freshmen from the Deseret Towers dormitories took on a group of upperclassmen in flag football on a field covered with blue firefighters' foam. The game was planned to be a kinder, gentler version of mud football, but things did get ugly.
"It's kind of rough conditions out there," said junior Craig Brown, a self-described hoopster who managed to look pretty comfortable on the foam-covered gridiron while returning an interception for a touchdown and throwing for another score.
"It's kind of tough to get through the blue stuff," he said. "You come around the corner and you don't know what's going to happen - if you're going to fall down or what."
Thursday night's "true blue" game, which was planned in conjunction with homecoming activities going on all week, consisted of four teams playing several quarters each against different opponents. In one of the quarters, the team of freshmen overcame their older counterparts.
"We took them to the foam," one first-year student said. "It was glorious."
Student leaders planned the game after reading accounts of mud football games that took place between freshmen and upperclassmen at BYU several decades ago. Those games, according to one BYU historian, were instituted to replace the freshmen hazing rituals common in the first half of the century.
Beginning in 1963, the annual "Mudbowl" was actually a tournament among several teams from each class. Half-time entertainment during the championship game was a Mudbowl Queen contest in which a dozen coeds sloshed through 8-inch deep mud the entire length of the field.
Representatives of the BYU Student Association asked BYU grounds manager Roy Peterman if they could resurrect the mud games, but he wasn't sure it was a good idea. Besides the potential for injury, mud games are hard on the field.
"We don't have a place for mud football so (foam) is a good alternative," Peterman said. "It's just a fun idea."
"It's not anything that's hard-core. It's just kind of fun to get out there and mess around," added Spencer Kelley, BYUSA campus activities vice president. "It's fun to see the `victims' when they get out - they're all blue."
Indeed, most of the participants did turn blue.
The biodegradable foam was provided by movie special effects experts Layne Robinson and Wayne Walser. The pair used a pressurized tank that they invented a decade ago to mix and spray the foam. Normally, their work consists of spraying white foam to portray snow on movie sets.