Blue (university sport)
A Blue is an award earned by athletes at a university and some schools for competition at the highest level. The awarding of Blues began at Oxford and Cambridge universities in England. It is awarded at British, Australian and New Zealand universities.
- 1 History
- 2 University of Cambridge
- 3 University of Oxford
- 4 'Blues' in Australia
- 5 'Blues' in New Zealand
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
The first sporting contest between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge was held on 4 June 1827, when a two-day cricket match at Lord's, organized by Charles Wordsworth, nephew of the poet William, resulted in a draw. There is no record of any university "colours" being worn during the game.
At the first Boat Race in 1829, the Oxford crew was dominated by students of Christ Church, whose college colours were dark blue. They wore white shirts with dark blue stripes, while Cambridge wore white with a pink or scarlet sash. At the second race, in 1836, a light blue ribbon was attached to the front of the Cambridge boat, probably as it was the colour of Eton. These colours — light blue for Cambridge, and dark blue for Oxford — became the official colours of the two boat clubs, and through the rivalry of the Boat Race, the colours became inextricably linked with the universities and contests between the two.
University of Cambridge
Athletes at the University of Cambridge may be awarded a Full Blue (or simply a Blue), Half Blue, First Team Colours or Second Team Colours for competing at the highest level of university sport, which must include being in a Varsity match or race against the University of Oxford. A Full Blue is the highest honour that may be bestowed on a Cambridge athlete, and is a much-coveted and prestigious prize. In general, the Full Blue standard is approximately that of being successful at a national level of student competition, and the Half Blue standard is that of being successful at county or regional level.
Once light blue had been chosen as the colour of Cambridge's Boat Club, the other university sport clubs followed suit, though out of courtesy would request permission from the Boat Club before awarding such a "Blue". In the 1860s the three senior sports — rowing, cricket and athletics — were awarding Blues, and the presidents of each formed an informal "Blues Committee" to oversee such awards. By 1880 a number of smaller clubs involved in Varsity matches had successfully requested the right to award "Half Blues".
The criteria for awarding blues are different for men and women. Awards are made at the discretion of the men's and women's Blues Committees. The Men's Blues Committee is formed from one representative of each of the Full Blue sports, and the Women's from one representative of each of the Full Blue and Half Blue sports. Each committee meets to discuss issues relating to Cambridge sport. The women's committee is democratically elected and thus more progressive than the men's committee: the mens committee, the positions of which are filled automatically, meet only occasionally.
In some sports with Full Blue status, the varsity match second team is awarded Second Team Colours.
The awarding of a Full Blue often requires a person to fulfill a number of requirements in the same academic year, particularly in sports with Discretionary Full Blue status. If, for whatever reason, an exceptional athlete is of or above Full Blue standard but does not fulfill all the requirements for the 'automatic' award of a Full Blue in any given year, the committee has the authority to grant an Extraordinary Full Blue to that person subject to scrutiny of the particular case. The individual's case must be presented to the Blues Committee in person and must be backed up by substantial evidence and references. The award is unlikely to be made unless the person is of world-class or at least international standard.
Each sport has specific criteria for each award; details of the individual criteria for women's sports can be found here, and are summarised below.
Categorisation of men's sports
|Boxing, cricket, field hockey, football, golf, lawn tennis, rowing, rugby union, squash, gymnastics|
|Full Blue (some) / Half Blue (rest)|
|Athletics, basketball, cross country running, rugby league, swimming, ice hockey|
|Discretionary Full Blue|
|Badminton, canoeing, cycling, dancesport, fencing, judo, powerlifting, ice hockey, karate, lacrosse (Oxford), modern pentathlon, orienteering, rifle shooting (small-bore and full-bore), sailing, skiing, water polo, real tennis|
|Archery, Australian rules football, Eton and Rugby fives, ice hockey, chess, kickboxing, korfball, lacrosse, lightweight rowing, mountain biking, pistol shooting, polo, rackets, Association Croquet, clay pigeon shooting, riding, rifle shooting (small-bore and full-bore), table tennis, volleyball, windsurfing, and yachting|
|Gaelic football, American football|
Categorisation of women's sports
|Full Blue - whole team|
|Fencing, football, hockey, lacrosse, lawn tennis, netball, rowing, rugby union, squash, dance|
|Full Blue (some) / Half Blue (rest)|
|Athletics, cricket, dancesport, modern pentathlon, swimming, volleyball, basketball|
|Discretionary Full Blue|
|Badminton, cross-country, cycling, gymnastics, ice hockey, judo, karate, orienteering, rifle shooting (full-bore), sailing, skiing, volleyball, boxing, real tennis|
|Archery, canoeing, canoe polo, cricket, Eton Fives, gliding, golf, ice hockey, korfball, lifesaving, lightweight rowing, orienteering, association croquet, pistol shooting, riding, rifle shooting (small-bore), taekwondo, trampolining, triathlon, windsurfing, waterpolo, ultimate (if they compete in the Open division), yachting|
|Table tennis, windsurfing|
The winner of a Blue or Half Blue is entitled to wear a blues blazer, which is one of the most recognisable and distinctive garments associated with Cambridge University. Full Blue blazers are completely coloured Cambridge Blue. Half Blue blazers have a number of different designs, depending on the wearer's sport; a typical design is an off-white blazer with Cambridge blue lapels and trimmings. There is a variety of other Blue and Half Blue paraphernalia, including scarves, ties, pullovers, bow ties, caps and squares. Such items are worn with pride.
In 2008 in Cambridge an alumna launched Oxbridge Blues Jewellery  specifically for women's Blues and Half Blues at the two Universities. These are the only blues item to have been licensed by the University of Cambridge.
Men holding Blues, Half Blues or Second Team Colours in a Full Blue sport are eligible to join the Hawks' Club. Women holding any of these awards are eligible to join The Ospreys, which was founded in 1985.
University of Oxford
At the University of Oxford, the committees for awarding Blues and Half-Blues work on much the same principles as the Cambridge committees. The principal difference between the two men's committees is that, at Oxford, all Captains, regardless of their status as Full, Discretionary, or Half-Blue must attend meetings of the Committee. Until recently, the voting was broken up according to Blues status with Full Blue Captains being allowed to vote on all matters while all the other Captains could only vote on matters directly relating to Half-Blue Sports. In Michaelmas Term 2006, the committee finally allowed Discretionary Full Blue Captains the right to vote on matters directly relating to Discretionary Full Blue Sports. This has ended many years of inequality for Discretionary Full Blue status Captains and was largely welcomed by the committee.
The committees are administered by an elected President, Secretary and Treasurer who serve one year. Unlike at Cambridge, where the President of Cambridge University Boat Club holds the position, at Oxford, any Captain can be elected President, regardless of sport or status.
The role of the President is to call and serve as Chair of any meeting of the committee, of which there are normally 3 per year (6 for the women). They also serve as the representative of the committee and sit on the University Sports Strategy Committee and the Executive Committee of the Sports Federation. Both Presidents along with the Director of Sport represent Oxford at any meetings of a Joint Blues Committee held with Cambridge. The purpose of the Joint Blues Committee is to discuss issues of eligibility for the Varsity match and to settle any disputes between the sporting communities of the two universities.
The current executive of the two committees are:
Oxford University Men’s Blues Committee
- President: Alex Howard (Athletics, Christ Church College)
- Secretary: Eric LeGresley (Gymnastics, St. Hilda's College)
- Treasurer: George Spill (Ski, St. Edmund's Hall)
Oxford University Women’s Blues Committee
- President: Bridget Fryer (Rowing, Oriel)
- Secretary: Ann Hyams (Swimming, St John's)
Both Committees share a common Senior Member. The post currently being held by the Director of Sport Jon Roycroft. 
The colour of an Oxford Full Blue blazer is dark blue. The Oxford Half Blue blazer can be one of two designs. Either it is composed of thick vertical stripes of dark blue and off-white, as in the image to the right, or it can be dark blue, as the Full Blue blazer, with two white stripes above the club badge on the left breast.
The Oxford range of Oxbridge Blues Jewellery was launched in Oxford at the Women's Blues Award Ceremony in the Natural History Museum in 2012. The range is the same as the Cambridge design except that the semi-precious stones are navy blue and white.
The club associated with the Oxford Blue is Vincent’s Club, although its membership is not restricted to Blues, and there are wider criteria for election. Atalantas is a club for sportswomen at Oxford, and also is not restricted to Blues.
'Blues' in Australia
University of Adelaide
The Adelaide University Sports Association at the University of Adelaide in Adelaide, South Australia awards a Blue and a Half Blue for outstanding sporting achievement, and a Club Letters for both sporting achievement and service.
'Blues' in New Zealand
Since 1919 the New Zealand Universities Blue has been awarded to NZ University students who have achieved excellence both on and off the field of play. Currently University Sport New Zealand is responsible for presenting this award
- Hawks' Club – social club for men holding a Cambridge Full Blue, Half Blue or Second Team Colours
- Rugby League Varsity Match – annual rugby league match between Oxford and Cambridge
- The Boat Race
- The Colours Match – annual rugby union match between University College Dublin and Trinity College, Dublin
- The University Golf Match – annual golf match between Oxford and Cambridge
- The University Match – annual cricket match between Oxford and Cambridge
- The Varsity Match – annual rugby union match between Oxford and Cambridge
- The Varsity Match (hockey) - annual hockey match between Oxford and Cambridge
- Varsity letter – similar award granted by schools in the United States
- Vincent's Club – social club for men consisting of those of appropriate character at the University of Oxford. Many are sportsmen.
- Sporting colours
- Christopher Thorne (10 July 1996). "Blues and the Blues Committee: Some historical notes" (PDF). Cambridge University Blues Committee.
- "Oxford University v Cambridge University, University Match 1827". cricketarchive.co.uk.
- Norris McWhirter. "The Oxford Blue". Vincent's Club.
- "Identity guidelines - fifth edition" (PDF). University of Cambridge. 25 March 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
- "About the Ospreys". Cambridge University Women's Sports Club.
- The History of the Varsity Match and the Blue, sport.ox.ac.uk, retrieved 1 May 2012
- "AWARDS". The Adelaide University Sports Association. Retrieved 10 February 2013.
- Cambridge University
- Blues Committees
- Cambridge University Rugby Football Club
- A history of the Cambridge Blue
- Cambridge University Hawks' Club website
- The Ospreys website (the female equivalent of the Hawks' Club)
- Cambridge University Rugby League Football Club site
- Oxford University
- Oxford University Sport
- Oxford University Sports Federation Blues Website
- Oxford University Squash Racquet's Club
- Oxford University Association Football Club: The Varsity match
- Oxford University Vincent's Club website
- The Atalantas website (the female equivalent of the Vincent's Club)
- Oxford University Rugby League Football Club site
- Oxford University Amateur Boxing Club (OUABC)
- Other universities