Maybe the witches and wizards of the Harvard Quidditch team know a spell to ward off budget cuts. Despite fiscal pressure at the University, Harvard’s competitive Quidditch team recently conjured up a $600 grant—primarily to purchase broomsticks.
The fictional sport, concocted by J.K. Rowling in her popular Harry Potter novels, has become a reality on college campuses across the country.
This fall, Harvard joined the ranks of the more than 200 universities that play Quidditch, “the nation’s fastest-growing college sport,” according to Stacy L. Rush, co-founder of the Harvard team.
“I was a little disappointed that Harvard didn’t have [a Quidditch team],” said Rush, a visiting undergraduate from Toronto and avid Harry Potter fan who playfully insists that she was recruited on a Quidditch scholarship.
“And then I realized—hey, that’s what I’m here for,” she said.
Rush and team co-founder Alana J. Biden ’11 received a $600 club sports grant to fund their equipment, which, according to Rush, is the typical sum allotted to a club team. The team used the money to purchase two Quaffles (volleyballs in Muggle parlance), two Bludgers (kickballs), three hoops for use as goals, and 14 broomsticks.
These brooms, which were the priciest item on the team’s shopping list, were purchased to comply with Intercollegiate Quidditch Association (IQA) regulations. The team bought 14 Scarlet Hawk brooms—for a total of $583.10—from Alivan’s, a Florida-based company that markets Harry Potter-themed products.
A wooden broom from Dickson Bros. True Value Hardware in Harvard Square costs between $7.49 and $12.49.
Alivan’s, the only IQA-approved broom manufacturer, makes its brooms entirely by hand, using solid sassafras or oak wood and hand-tied straw, according to David A. Wedzik, Alivan’s founder.
Recent Middlebury College graduate and Commissioner of the IQA Alex R. Benepe said that while regulation broomsticks are not required in Quidditch matches, they pose several advantages. The brooms are shorter than regular household brooms and thus easier to maneuver on the playing field.
“It’s a full-contact sport,” Rush said, adding, “It’s co-ed and it’s full-contact.”
Despite their high price tag, three of the Harvard team’s new brooms broke on first use last weekend in a game against Tufts. Their next game is Friday, against arch-rival Yale.
Rush called Alivan’s about the broken brooms, and Wedzik said he agreed to upgrade seven of them to the sturdier but more expensive Scarlet Falcon model for a reduced fee.
Rush justified the expense of purchasing official Quidditch broomsticks: “The brooms can fly,” she said.