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Playing dirty for a good cause

ASU students, alumni unite in Oozeball tournament for charity; player registration deadline is Friday

students playing mud volleyball
March 23, 2016

Next week, a few ASU students and alumni won’t be afraid to get their hands dirty — for a good cause.

April 2 marks the 32nd annual Oozeball tournament, the only game where you can play dirty and still feel good about it.

Sponsored by Arizona State University’s Student Alumni AssociationThe Student Alumni Association is a student-run group, affiliated with the ASU Alumni Association. (SAA), the event, which is essentially a game of mud volleyball, helps support the United Way through a portion of the tournament’s ticket sales and registration fees.

The SAA has strong ties to the United Way, a nonprofit organization that works with local communities to provide fundraising and support for charitable organizations. 

“United Way is a multifaceted organization,” said Nicole Evans, ASU junior and president of the SAA. “There’s not really one single thing they do. They help a wide range of people in a variety of ways, which is really why we’re proud to be affiliated with them.” 

The SAA turned the Oozeball tournament into a charity event a few years back. The student group helps maintain the spirit and traditions of ASU, through such events as the freshman Lantern Walk, whitewashing the A — and of course, the Oozeball tournament.

“I had a student describe it once as the ‘most college thing’ he’s ever done,” said Dan Turbyfill, Oozeball’s lead organizer and special events manager at the ASU Alumni Association. “It’s just a lot of fun coming out to play in the mud.”  

“I first started participating in the Oozeball tournament as a high school student,” Evans said. “My older sister was part of the coordination crew which helps put the event together.”

It was because of the influence of her older sister that Evans decided to seek out her current leadership position with the SAA. Now she gets to orchestrate the game she fell in love with.

“My favorite part of the tournament is definitely getting dirty,” said Evans. “No one is afraid of the mud. People come in costumes to participate in or just to wear while watching the entertainment. People sit in lawn chairs and watch regardless of whether their team is still in the competition.” 

“We have families and community members come by because they hear the music and want to see what’s going on,” she said. “I’d say [the crowd] is a mix between people associated with ASU and people who are just members of the community.” 

people watching students playing mud volleyball from bleachers

Spectators come out to watch the 2014 Oozeball tournament. Photos courtesy of the ASU Alumni Association

According to Tyler Jennings, a co-organizer with the SAA, preparing for event is more extensive than one might think.

The SAA starts prepping for the tournament in January — deciding on general ideas, theme and changes they want to make from the previous year, as well as the location.

Then “it takes about a couple weeks to get the volleyball courts ready,” Jennings said.

To make the mud for the Oozeball courts, workers take dirt out of the ground and put softer dirt back in, then fill all eight of the former volleyball courts with water.

Jennings said the preparations are now in high gear, with the SAA doing marketing for the event and more people signing up.

“We have 15 to 20 people from the Student Alumni Association who do stuff like set up tents, ref the games and help organize the event,” Jennings said.

So how do you play Oozeball exactly? The fine details of the game are different from your garden-variety volleyball. For example, a player may go out of bounds to play a ball, and the ball is still considered good if the player hits it back in. There are no timeouts. Everything is fast-paced to keep you on your toes — but close-toed shoes are required to play.

Teams are made up of six players with four reserves. Matches last up to 30 minutes, and there is a 64-team bracket. First team to 21 points wins, but not so fast: You have to win by two points.

This means games could drag on to the point of exhaustion for the competitors, ensuring only the team with the highest stamina will be victorious. There’s no room for error either, because the tournament is single-round elimination.

This year’s event starts at 9 a.m. April 2 on the Tempe campus.

Registration is $15 per person, and participants can register a team of just them and their friends, or choose to join a team at random to meet new people. Registration closes March 25. Spectators are also welcome to come out and cheer the players on.

For more information and to register for the tournament, visit

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