Quoits tournaments promote campus camaraderie


Sarah Ingram

Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Associate Vice President of Intercultural Affairs Maurice Cooley plays Quoits on campus Friday, Sept. 20.

Quoits, the longstanding tradition at Marshall University celebrating the signing of the U.S. Constitution on campus, returned these past couple weeks and finished out yesterday, giving students, faculty, staff and even the university’s president an opportunity to have fun without any worries of the outside world, according to one faculty member at Marshall. 

“It (Quoits) just promotes unity and consensus,” Montserrat Miller, a professor of history and the executive director of the John Deaver Drinko Academy, said. “We can have our differences in terms of politics, in terms of ideology, in terms of religion and in terms of any other type of belief system you can think of. But there is some space in our lives where we come together and have a bit of fun in a positive way.” 

Quoits, often compared to the game of horseshoes, is a game previously played by Chief Justice John Marshall and his justices to pass the time between hearing cases and making decisions. Players throw disc-like objects, called quoits, at a sand pit with a pole in the center. The goal is to get to 21 points before the opposing team does.

The tournaments included an open Quoits tournament from Sept. 9-18, the Presidential Invitational on Sept. 20 and the Media Invitational Sept. 24.

The rules for the game indicate that politics and other areas of debate are not allowed to be mentioned during the game. Additionally, teams are only allowed to show compassion for each other, rather than using unsportsmanlike language. 

Miller said the idea is to give the players a chance to enjoy themselves while “emphasizing consensus building.”

“We’re only allowed to say encouraging things to one another here,” Miller said. “We can’t disparage anybody.” 

Tournaments during the last couple of weeks have included student teams, faculty teams, combinations of student and faculty teams, media teams and the presidential team. 

The presidential team included Marshall President Jerry Gilbert and his teammate Maurice Cooley, the associate vice president of Intercultural Affairs and interim vice president of Student Affairs. The two have been playing together in the Quoits tournaments since Gilbert’s arrival at Marshall in 2016. The pair played against a team representing United Way of the River Cities and lost 21-15, but Gilbert said he still enjoyed the game. 

“I think it’s a great game and a great way to honor John Marshall,” Gilbert said. “It’s a great way to have friendly competition, and that’s what this is about: friendly competition, bringing people together and just having fun in a game that has a rich history that goes back hundreds of years.” 

Cooley talked about how Quoits has been a tradition at Marshall for years, allowing for some fun while also having informational discussions and events during the month.

“This is always a great annual celebration at Marshall,” Cooley said. “It’s a part of honoring the history and legacy of Chief Justice John Marshall. Marshall has been doing this for a number of years, having quoits tournaments, so we are having fun during the week while we’re having some more intellectual exercises.” 

Cooley has been part of the presidential team since before Gilbert became president at Marshall, playing with former Marshall President Stephen Kopp, and he said he enjoys the game no matter the outcome.

“I have been the president’s partner since Dr. Kopp was here, Dr. Steve Kopp,” Cooley said. “And it was an honor for me that when our new president, Dr. Gilbert, came, he asked would I continue in that capacity. Whether we win or lose, it’s a great honor to be the president’s partner, but it’s also an honor just to celebrate Marshall University and a legacy of the chief justice.”

Miller said students often walk by different groups of people playing Quoits on Buskirk field and either stop to watch or ask questions. She also said that while students can currently come to the John Deaver Drinko Academy room in Old Main 211 to check out the Quoits equipment, she has plans to make the game more accessible to students through intramural events year-round, rather than having the tournaments during the Constitution Celebration only.

“In the past we’ve played Quoits in a formal sense in September in association with our constitution celebration,” Miller said. “There have been a few evenings in the springtime when Quoits enthusiasts come check out quoits and come down here and play after work. We are going to be formalizing that and inviting student groups, faculty and staff to come out and have this informal Quoits play, do a little Quoits clinic and familiarize people about the rules, weather allowing, at various points in the year.” 

Miller also said the department received new covers for the pits used for Quoits. These covers have “In the Spirit of John Marshall” engraved on them, so it can be more evident that Buskirk field is where Quoits is played, Miller said. 

Students interested in playing Quoits may find the equipment and rules for the game in Old Main 211. 

Sarah Ingram can be contacted at [email protected] 

Sarah Ingram
Marshall President Jerry Gilbert, on a team with Interim Vice President for Student Affairs and Associate Vice President of Intercultural Affairs Maurice Cooley, plays Quoits against an opponent on a team representing United Way of the River Cities on campus Friday, Sept. 20.