The name might sound odd to some. But for University of Mary Washington students and alumni, “Devil Goat Day” is tradition – one that’s been around for nearly a century.
And this year, as always, it’s on!
With courses turned virtual and campus cleared out due to COVID-19, Senior Class Council (SCC) couldn’t bear to give up this uniquely UMW event – where students who graduate in odd years, called “devils,” compete with those who graduate in even years, called “goats.”
“We couldn’t let that day slide by without acknowledging the tradition that we care so much about,” said SCC President Eleanor Kilmon, who’s worked with her clubmates to take it online for a week instead of a day.
Launched Sunday, this year’s event is packed with as much Eagle pride and well-meaning rivalry – seniors and sophomores vs. juniors and freshmen – as ever. But instead of on Ball Circle, competitions take place on Instagram, with #umwdgd. Traditional matches of corn hole, cup-pong and bull-riding give way to virtual challenges unofficially measured by re-posts and tags.
“Even though we aren’t hosting this event in the traditional sense, our Mary Wash spirit is greater than ever,” SCC Treasurer Lilly Lester said of the activities, designed to give UMW students a chance to unwind with friends during the last week of classes.
Monday’s “spread the spirit” challenge, for example, asked students to catch an object from one side of the screen and toss it off on the other. Polls, playlists and questions have participants naming their favorite clubs, sports and spots to hang out. And Thursday’s designated “Devil Goat Day” contest offers students ways to connect with campus from afar, from painting their own spirit rock, like the big one near Woodard Hall, to submitting impressions of Dean Cedric Rucker, who introduces them to the iconic event during Orientation.
But what is this Devil Goat thing anyway?
Back in 1926, Mary Wash’s junior class, led by Professor of Education Eileen Kramer Dodd, claimed the goat as its symbol, according to University of Mary Washington, A Centennial History by Professor Emeritus William B. Crawley. Not to be outdone, the seniors chose their own symbol – a devil – and the good-natured rivalry began.
Much like UMW’s student body, this tradition evolved through the years, eventually becoming an afternoon of field day-type events. Additions in the 1990s included a pie-eating contest, Velcro wall climb and tug-of-war battles, like the memorable match from SCC Vice President Lily Eghtessad’s sophomore year.
“The rope broke in half and sent everyone flying. No one was hurt; it was hilarious!” said Eghtessad, who, with clubmates, will share a different type of tug-of-war battle this year, one Kilmon filmed at home with dog Abby.
Rather than build excitement with posts and pictures leading up to the launch of Devil Goat Day, SCC officers planned it as a pop-up affair meant as a pleasant surprise. Assistant Director of Student Activities Crystal Rawls said the way they have handled the virtual event shows that “UMW spirit can persist during the darkest of times.”
For SCC Promotions Director Hannah Frederick, there was no other way. The camaraderie this UMW tradition creates for all Eagles is extra special, she said.
“Devil Goat Day shows the unconventional but non-judgmental community at UMW. We don’t let our differences separate us, we let them cultivate us.”