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Brownian Motion Ultimate

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Brownian Motion is the men's Ultimate team at Brown University. The team has a long, distinguished history as one of the top college Ultimate teams in the United States. Brownian Motion took home first place at the 2005 Ultimate Players Association College Championship Series in Corvallis, Oregon.[1]


Early years[edit]

Officially founded as a University organization on December 7, 1975, B-Mo (Brownian Motion's nickname) began in an effort to "rise against the challenge of other institutions," as the team's constitution reads.[2] Like most other college Ultimate teams at the time, it consisted mostly of people who enjoyed playing frisbee, rather than a distinct set of natural athletes. However, the team quickly became successful as it competed in Eastern Nations at Amherst in 1980 and 1981.

Building years[edit]

The years from 1982-1985 were building years for Brownian Motion. While they won few games, 1983 saw Brown's first attempt at running a zone-defense. The same year also saw Brown host sectionals and make its first bid at Regionals. The following year turned out to be a critical year in the development of Brown's program. In the summer of 1984, several Brownian Motion players spent their summer at Stanford University. When they returned, they imparted their knowledge of the Stanford team's offense on the Brown team and turned B-Mo into a successful squad. While certainly not dominating the Northeast, Brown became a regional contender, returning to Regionals for the second year in a row.

Brownian Motion had become a Northeastern power by this point and won a considerable number of the games it played. The 1986 and 1987 seasons saw a reasonably competitive team face some of the toughest teams in the country. The 1985-1986 season also saw beginnings of the "Fish" logo that remains the official symbol of Brownian Motion to this day, still printed on jerseys, shorts, sweatshirts, and discs.

Middle years[edit]

In the 1988 and 1989 seasons, the Brownian Motion team took a rather radical approach to program development. The team completely abandoned college tournaments in favor of club tournaments, hoping to play higher caliber teams in order to accelerate the growth and quality of their own program. While this seemed to be effective, the new eligibility requirements adopted by the Ultimate Players Association (UPA) severely hurt B-Mo's team. By the Spring of 1991, the team entered a transitional period in which graduate and undergraduate students and local former college players created a hybrid team that laid the foundations for the team spirit and intensive training that led to future athletic success. 1989 also witnessed the birth of Disco Inferno, the Brown Women's Ultimate team and the relationship between men's and women's teams helped players reformulate playing and training strategies.

The New School[edit]

Sometime around 1996, Brownian Motion reformed, changing from an "old school" team to a "new school" team with championship dreams. By 1998, Brownian Motion had never won a Sectional's championship. However, making its first cross-country trip as a team, Brownian Motion competed at the premier Stanford Invitational Tournament in 1998, finishing an even 3-3, proving that Brownian Motion could compete with the best teams in the country. It was also at this time that Brownian Motion re-constituted its "B" team, nicknamed Polyester Funkadelic or P-Funk.

The success of 1998 continued as Brown lost only one other game on its way to its first National's berth ever in the Spring season. At Nationals, Brown went 3-3, losing to the eventual champions UC Santa Barbara and Stanford. However, Brown also beat the third ranked Carleton College 13-12. Brown left nationals as one of the top ranked college programs in the nation.

These years also gave the Brown recognition via the Callahan Award, given to the top player in college Ultimate every year.[3] Fortunat Mueller, often considered one of the top players in the history of Ultimate, was the runner up in 1998 and won the award in 1999. Justin Safdie won the award in 2000, while Moses Rifkin was the runner up in 2001.[4] In 2002, the team decided not to submit a nominee wanting to show that no individual was the sole reason for the success of the Brown program.

1999 saw Brown as one of the top ranked teams in the country. While expectations were extremely high, the team performed and won many tournaments on its way to its second Nations birth in as many years. However, Brown lost in the semi-finals again but this time under much heavier expectations.

The team realized that much of its problems in 1999 arose from the lack of ability to deal with its own substitutes and manage play calling while also playing high levels of Ultimate. In 2000, Brown hired its first coach, Nathan Wicks. After Wicks became coach, Brown reached Nationals, beating Carleton in the finals, 15-10.[5]

In 2001, after losing 10 of the championship team's players, Brown lost in the quarterfinals of every major tournament in the Spring, including Nationals. This was also the first time in four years that Brown lost Regionals as both Harper Alexander and Moses Rifkin were injured.

After the disappointing 2001, 2002 was even worse for Brownian Motion. Having lost Callahan runner-up Moses Rifkin, Brown was a young class of talented players. The team began to play well in the Spring season, losing in the semis at the Stanford Invitational and winning sectionals. However, after a roster submission fiasco in the Northeast, the region had only one bid to Nationals instead of the usual two. When Tufts soundly defeated Brown in the finals at regionals, Brown missed nationals for the first time since 1997. The bright spot for Brownian Motion was the extremely talented freshman class, including Alexander Bowman, Dan MacArthur, Neale Mahoney, Ben Sprung, Paul Vandenberg, and future Callahan Award winner Joshua "Zip" Ziperstein.

Second championship[edit]

Entering the 2003 season, Brown was looking to be one of the top programs in college Ultimate, despite failing to qualify for Nationals the previous year. With a relatively young team, Brown won regionals without losing a game, beating a talented UMass squad 17-15 in the finals to earn their way back to Nationals. At Nationals Brown played well but, with Josh Ziperstein injured and on the sidelines, lost to Carleton 15-12 in the quarterfinals to end their season.

At this point, Ziperstein was widely regarded as one of the greatest college players of his era, many already declaring him a sure-fire Callahan Award winner by his senior season. Under his leadership and with a very deep roster, Brown returned to Nationals in 2004 as one of the favorites to win. In the semi-finals against UC Berkeley, despite the offensive brilliance of Ziperstein, Brown was defeated 15-13, ending a season of high expectations.

Brown entered the 2005 Spring season as the third-ranked team in the country, behind Stanford and defending champions Colorado. Fielding a deep, talented team, Ziperstein, alongside Alexander Bowman, Dan MacArthur, Neale and Colin Mahoney, Paul and Mike Vandenberg, and Will Arnold led Brown to a 30-game winning streak in the spring season, including a berth at Nationals. Brown won all their games at Nationals leading up to the semi-finals where they beat the second seeded Stanford University 15-7.

In a finals matchup that many would have predicted at the start of the season, Brown squared off against defending champions Colorado. Colorado, led by 2004 Callahan Award winner Josh "Richter" Ackley and sophomore Beau Kittredge, had had a more successful spring season than Brown, but the two teams had not yet faced each other. The night before the game, Brown's Josh Ziperstein was announced the 2005 Callahan Award winner, leading to a rare occurrence of two Callahan Award winners playing against each other in the finals. Brown defeated Colorado 15-14 in a game that featured incredible plays by both Brown and Colorado.

Third championship[edit]

Entering the 2019 season, Brown was widely regarded as a contender for the national title. However, many doubted the young team's ability to topple UNC, consistently ranked first in the Ultiworld and USA Ultimate rankings. Over the course of the season, Brown followed an upward trajectory under the direction of legendary coaches Jake Smart and Sam Lehman, eventually finding success at Easterns with an undefeated tournament that included wins over UNC and Carleton. The team continued their exceptional play into the post season where they went undefeated at Sectionals, Regionals, and Nationals. They capped off a great season with a crushing win in the finals again UNC 14-8.[6]



  • USAU D1 College National Champions[7]


  • UPA College National Champions
  • Yale Cup Champions
  • Ultimax Champions


  • UPA College National Semifinalists
  • Ivy League Champions
  • Yale Cup Champions


  • UPA College National Quarterfinalists


  • Yale Cup Champions


  • UPA College National Quarterfinalists
  • UMass Amherst Champions


  • UPA College National Champions
  • Easterns Champions
  • Yale Cup Champions


  • UPA College National Semifinalists
  • Classic City Classic Champions
  • Yale Cup Champions


  • UPA College National Semifinalists
  • Yale Cup Champions


  • Terminus Champions

Players of note[edit]

  • Billy Rodriguez (USA Ultimate Hall of Fame inductee 2015,[8] 10-time National Club champion, BMo co-captain 1985)


  1. College Sports Television: Brown Wins 2005 Ultimate National Championships
  2. Brownian Motion Team Constitution
  3. Brown University Alumni Magazine: Notable Players of Brown Ultimate Archived May 17, 2006, at the Wayback Machine
  4. Chasing Interview with Moses Rifkin
  5. Vincent Mallozi, New York Times, Dec. 31, 2000, p. 8.5: From Sydney to the Bronx, Winner's List
  6. Stephens, Edward (May 30, 2019). "D-I College Championships 2019: Brown Smashes UNC To Win First Title Since 2005". Ultiword.
  7. Stephens, Edward (May 30, 2019). "D-I College Championships 2019: Brown Smashes UNC To Win First Title Since 2005". Ultiword.
  8. "Billy Rodriguez (Class of 2015)".

External links[edit]

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