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Paddle up: New varsity table tennis team

Northeastern has signed a five-year trial agreement with the U.S. Collegiate Athletic Federation to become the first school to offer table tennis as a varsity sport.

The U.S. CAF expects a dozen other schools to follow in Northeastern’s footsteps by the end of the year, at which point a governing body will create two six-team conferences. The Huskies will prepare for Division 1 play in 2014 with summertime exhibition matches against the Harvard and MIT club teams.

“Northeastern is thrilled to be the pioneer of table tennis at the varsity level,” the university said in a statement. “We hope that we can start a nationwide ping-pong tradition as rich and rewarding as that of our country’s most beloved sports.”

The university’s ping-pong team is expected to comprise 10 of the country’s top players. All of them were recruited by head coach Phil Sardo, who competed for Team USA at the London 2012 Olympic Games but did not win a medal, let alone a single match.

“My goal is to win something for once in my life,” said Sardo, who stressed the importance of pronouncing his name with a strong accent on the “do.” “I have a good feeling we’ll be able to sweep those club teams across the river.”

The Huskies will show off their ping-pong skills for students, faculty, and staff during an open practice on Tuesday at 10 a.m. in the Cabot Cage.

Top recruit Chalky Studebaker grew up playing a makeshift game of ping-pong in the basement of his home in Bluffington, Va., patiently hitting ball after ball against a cream-colored wall.

He modeled his game after Forrest Gump, the title character in the Academy Award-winning film who wowed wounded military veterans with his backhand and played for the All-American Ping Pong team.

“I know Forrest is a fictional character, but his hand-eye coordination is unrivaled in the world of professional table tennis,” said Studebaker, a rising first-year student. “He could volley two ping-pong balls at once at warp speed.”

Studebaker, a three-sport athlete at Bluffington High School, turned down a full scholarship to play quarterback for the University of Southern California in order to play ping-pong for Northeastern. “Who needs football and sunshine?” Studebaker asked.

This article is part of news@Northeastern’s April Fools’ Day coverage.

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