Annual 'Soup Bowl' will see Rutgers glee club and marching band go head-to-head on the football field


soupbowldimitri
Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez |

The “Soup Bowl” became a tradition 47 years ago when the Rutgers Glee Club and the marching band used football to settle a dispute over practice space. 


As the football team continues its season, the Glee Club and the marching band also kick off their season with the annual "Soup Bowl."

"Soup Bowl," named after F. Austin "Soup" Walter, a former Rutgers music professor, is a yearly football event between the University’s Glee Club and marching band. Every November the two organizations meet at a Rutgers field and go head-to-head for a trophy and bragging rights.

The marching band won in the first-ever "Soup Bowl," but the victor has bounced back and forth since then, with the Glee Club now striving for its fourth-consecutive win.

“(Walter) at the time was director of both Glee Club and Marching Band. The opportunity came around to perform at halftime at a football game, but only one could perform. (Someone said) ‘let’s settle this through a football game.’ They set up rules, similar to what we know as football but also adapted them to our needs,” said Joe Unkel, the alto saxophone section leader and a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.

In terms of technicalities, eight people play per team in each rotation, with four collegiate referees overseeing and abiding by NCAA regulations, he said. Guidelines are slightly modified to accommodate for the lack of equipment. Only cleats and mouthguards are allowed. Otherwise, the game follows as full-contact flag football.

Having ingrained itself in tradition for at least 50 years, the "Soup Bowl" has entrenched itself into marching band and Glee Club culture.

David Dizdari is the Glee Club public relations manager and a Rutgers Business School sophomore.

“'Soup Bowl' is one of the most hyped events of the year and is as intrinsic a part of club culture in the fall as older traditions like the Christmas Carol and Song Concert Series,” Dizdari said.

Fellow Glee Club member and School of Engineering sophomore Alec Pizarro agreed and said that he was unable to participate in the "Soup Bowl" last year, but he was so excited from conversations involving it that he had to ensure he could play this year.

Unkel further emphasized the sense of unity and community he felt the "Soup Bowl" encourages. The marching band and Glee Club very rarely collaborate, and this event is their annual interaction. Even within each organization, individuals meet and become better acquainted. 

Because of marching band’s segmentation by instrumental sections, many people do not interact outside of their sections, he said.

“(I love) that almost everyone in Glee Club is involved in some way. Besides the members that are actually playing, we also have 'Soup Cheer,' which consists of members who support us from the sidelines,” Pizarro said.

As a pre-game ritual, the marching band goes to Olive Garden before every "Soup Bowl" to “carb up” as well as distribute jerseys, Unkel said. The team, as well as faculty members, eat and share memories and contributions of each player to the event. At the end of the night, the players stand in a circle and put on another member's jerseys.

The "Soup Bowl" is still more than a month away, but both teams have already commenced practices two times a week. The field to be played on is still undecided, but Pizarro said that there are efforts being made to have it at High Point Solutions Stadium. Until then, the two teams will continue practicing and spreading the word about the event on social media.

The event itself is open to the public, and everyone is encouraged to attend. A more recent tradition of establishing a food drive during the "Soup Bowl" has been introduced and all nonperishable items acquired will be donated to a local food bank, such as Elijah’s Promise in New Brunswick.

“We ask everyone in attendance to bring a nonperishable food item so we can donate everything we’ve collected on behalf of both groups," Unkel said. "It’s nice how (Soup Bowl) has turned into something to keep history and tradition alive and to help out the community around us."


Kelly Kim

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