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NIU Tugs dates back to the 1960s and was a part of the annual “Springfest” events. Tugs was held at the East Lagoon near Altgeld Hall. Opposing teams would tug across a span of water. While the majority of the registered teams were fraternity groups from the IFC, there were also service fraternities, such as Alpha Phi Omega and non-Greek teams such as the “Flunkies.” At some time in the late 1970s or early 1980s, Tugs was moved off campus due to liability concerns from the University.
Between 1980 and 1985 the event was hosted on Greek row and bounced around to several different locations since the majority of the competing teams were fraternity organizations. In the spring of 1986,
Tugs settled in at the Sigma Phi Epsilon house property located at 924 Greenbrier and remained there through the 2007 season. During this time, Sigma Phi Epsilon became the official host of the sport and ran the Tugs Tournament as its own philanthropy event.
There was a time in the early-to-mid-1980s when there was no team weight limit average for Tugs. At some time in the mid-to-late 1980s, the 205 lb per man weight limit team average was introduced. At some time in the mid-1990s, a lighter 195 lb per man weight limit was introduced in an effort to create more parity in the sport. There were several fraternity closings in the late 1990s and early 2000s. At the same time, chapter manpower rosters were on the decline. By the mid-2000s, only 5 or 6 fraternities were entering the Tugs Tournament each year. The decision was made to lower the number of tuggers per team from 11-on-11 to 9-on-9.
One fraternity organization in particular, Pi Kappa Alpha (Pikes), has enjoyed an unusual domination of the sport. In the 40-year span from 1971 to 2010, Pikes had won the Tugs all but nine years (30 titles).
The “Pike Tradition” began in 1971 when 11 members tugged “iron man” winning their first title. The Pike team composed of those tuggers became known as “The Charge of the Light Brigade”. Other champions include Sigma Pi (1975,1982,1986), Delta Upsilon (1995, 1996), Phi Kappa Sigma (2003) Sigma Phi Epsilon (2005, 2006, 2007) and Phi Sigma Kappa (2010, 2012). In 2011, Phi Kappa Psi and Sigma Alpha Mu (SAMPsi) became the first combination team to win the championship.
Tugs was the center of the 1996 documentary “Tugs Untied” that immortalized NIU’s unique version of the sport. The 37-minute documentary went on to win the “Best of Arizona” award at the 2000 Arizona International Film Festival. The film became a favorite amongst NIU Greeks and has served as a thread of historical continuity for the sport that spans nearly five decades and three generations of NIU tuggers.
In 2008, Sigma Phi Epsilon suspended operations of their chapter, putting the future of the tournament in question. The Interfraternity Council (IFC) was selected to run the event.
The location of Tugs is now traditionally the East Tailgate Field at Huskie Stadium and the championship match is now part of the annual NIU “Red vs. Black” Spring Football Game.
Championship Matches by year (winner listed first)
2013 – Phi Sigma Kappa vs. Phi Kappa Theta
2012 – Phi Sigma Kappa vs. Pike
2011 – SamPsi vs. Phi Sigma Kappa
2010 – Phi Sigma Kappa vs. PKPS
2009 – Pike vs. Phi Sigma Kappa
2008 – Pike vs. Phi Sigma Kappa
2007 – Sigma Phi Epsilon vs. Pike
2006 – Sigma Phi Epsilon vs. Pike
2005 – Sigma Phi Epsilon vs. Pike
2004 – Pike vs. Sigma Phi Epsilon
2003 – Skulls vs. Pike
2002 – Pike vs. Skulls
2001 – Pike vs. Skulls
2000 – Pike vs. Skulls
1999 – Pike vs. Sigma Pi
1998 – Pike vs. Phi Sigma Kappa
1997 – Pike vs. Delta Upsilon
1996 – Delta Upsilon vs. Pike
1995 – Delta Upsilon vs. Sigma Pi
1994 – Pike vs. Phi Sigma Kappa
1993 – Pike vs. Phi Sigma Kappa
1992 – Pike vs. Sigma Phi Epsilon
1991 – Pike vs. Delta Upsilon
1990 – Pike vs. Sigma Phi Epsilon
1989 – Pike vs. Sigma Phi Epsilon
1988 – Pike vs. Sigma Chi
1987 – Pike vs. Sigma Pi
1986 – Sigma Pi vs. Pike
1985 – Pike vs. Sigma Pi
1984 – Pike vs. Sigma Pi
1983 – Pike vs.
1982 – Pike vs.
1981 – Pike vs.
1980 – Pike vs.