Navy sprint football team, Fall 1963.

Sprint football is a varsity sport played by United States colleges and universities, under standard American football rules.[1] Since the 2022 season, the sport has been governed by the Collegiate Sprint Football League and the Midwest Sprint Football League.

In sprint football, players must weigh less than 178 lb (81 kg) and have a minimum of 5% body fat to be eligible to play.[citation needed] The end result of these weight restrictions is an emphasis on speed and agility rather than on size and strength.[2]

Competition

As of the upcoming 2024 season, nine schools play in the CSFL and eight in the Midwest Sprint Football League.[3] Of the nine CSFL members, six are private universities (two being schools in the Ivy League) and two are national military academies. All eight MSFL members are private institutions. CSFL member Mansfield University of Pennsylvania is the only state university or college currently playing sprint football.

CSFL

CSFL Members
School Joined
US Military Academy (Army)[4] 1957
Caldwell University[5] 2017[6]
Chestnut Hill College[7] 2015
Cornell University[8] 1937
Mansfield University[9] 2008
Molloy University[10] 2024
US Naval Academy (Navy)[11] 1946
University of Pennsylvania[12] 1934
St. Thomas Aquinas College[13] 2018[14]

All CSFL teams are located in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States. Eight schools joined in the 21st century, one in 2008, six in the 2010s, and one joining in 2024. Five will be active in sprint football in the 2024 season. Of these new members, three no longer sponsor the sport—Franklin Pierce University, which joined in 2012, transitioned to full-sized football in NCAA Division II after the 2018 season;[15] Post University, which joined in 2010, did the same after the canceled 2020 season;[16] and Alderson Broaddus University, which joined in 2019 and also fielded a full-sized football team, dropped all athletics and departed the CSFL in 2023. Of the other 21st-century arrivals, no other current members also field a full-size varsity football team. The other four teams (all of which have been in the CSFL since 1957) have full-size football teams that compete in NCAA Division I—the service academies in FBS, and the Ivy League schools in FCS. Each team plays a seven-game season.[17] It is not uncommon for the CSFL teams to play against full-size junior varsity or club football squads from other schools in the early part of the season (in 2015, for instance, Navy faced the Longwood Lancers). In addition, Army, Cornell, Princeton, and Penn all hold alumni games in which sprint football alumni return to campus for a full-contact scrimmage against the varsity squad. The alumni games serve the dual purpose of raising funds to support the team and maintaining alumni interest in the program.[18] Typically, the alumni have to donate a monetary weight penalty (e.g., $2 per pound) for weighing above the 178-pound limit.[19] In 2017, when Caldwell joined, the CSFL was split into two divisions, the North and the South. On December 7, 2017, St. Thomas Aquinas College was announced as the tenth team in the league, to begin play in the 2018 season.[14] After that season, Franklin Pierce left to play full-sized football and was replaced by Alderson Broaddus.[20] However, in 2023, Alderson Broaddus' authorization to grant degrees was revoked, and they were required to drop all athletics, including their sprint football program.[21] The newest CSFL member is Molloy University, a Division II member which will add the sport in the 2024 season.[22]

As of 2023, only one charter member of the league remains, the Penn Quakers. The Princeton Tigers dropped the sport after 2015, following 16 consecutive years of winless seasons (an organized football record) and changes in league membership, and shifted its resources to club football.[23] A number of other Ivy League schools have historically had sprint football teams, including the Yale Bulldogs, Harvard Crimson, and Columbia Lions, all of whom had dropped the sport many years earlier; of the Ivy League schools, only Penn and the Cornell Big Red remain.

For its first 83 seasons, the CSFL did not sponsor playoff or bowl games (a tradition due in no small part to the Ivy League schools, who, like the rest of the Ivy League, abstain from all football postseason play to encourage academic performance). The season championship was decided solely by the regular season record; if multiple teams were tied atop the standings, all of them shared the championship. Since Navy's and Army's respective admissions to the league, those two schools have dominated the league; of the 72 seasons of lightweight football since Navy joined, they and/or Army have won at least a share of the league title in 76 of them, including stretches of 20 consecutive seasons from 1955–74 and 17 straight from 1983–99. Since the 2017 season, a championship game has been held on Veterans Day weekend.

Although CSFL and MSFL teams are considered varsity teams and official school-sponsored sports for the purpose of the NCAA, sprint football teams do not fall into the same divisional structure as other NCAA sports and thus do not follow the same rules or restrictions on athletic scholarships as traditional college football squads are bound to follow.

In April 2020, the CSFL chose Dan Mara, also Commissioner of the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC) as Commissioner. In July of that year, the league voted to not play a fall 2020 season out of concern over the COVID-19 pandemic, over the objections of Army and Navy, who indicated an intent to continue play without the other eight teams.[24] In addition to a single Army-Navy game in the fall,[25] Caldwell and St. Thomas Aquinas played a single game in spring 2021.[26] The league resumed normal operations in fall 2021.

MSFL

MSFL Members
School Joined
Bellarmine University[27] 2022
Calumet College of St. Joseph[28] 2022
Fontbonne University[29] 2022
Midway University[30] 2022
Oakland City University[31] 2023
Quincy University[32] 2022
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College[33] 2022
Walsh University[34] 2023

The MSFL was formed in 2021, with play starting in 2022, by six private institutions in the Midwest and Upper South. The league has its own bylaws and championship, but uses the same weight limits as the CSFL. The creation of the MSFL was touted as "the largest single-year expansion of the sport in nearly 90 years." Of the inaugural members, all are Catholic except for Midway University. The only NCAA Division I member is Bellarmine University, which was transitioning from NCAA Division II when the MSFL was formed. Quincy University, a Division II member, is the only charter MSFL member that also plays full-sized football. Another charter member is NCAA Division III and the other three are NAIA members.[3]

The league added two members, both private institutions, after its first season. Oakland City University, an NAIA member that does not play full-sized football, announced on July 19, 2022 that it was adding sprint football for the 2023 season. In the process, it became the MSFL's second non-Catholic member, instead being affiliated with the General Baptist churches.[35] Exactly three months later, Walsh University, a Catholic institution and NCAA Division II member that plays full-sized football, announced it would also add sprint football for 2023.[36]

Weight limit

CSFL rules, also used by the MSFL, require that players must weigh no more than 178 pounds (81 kg), a figure that has slowly increased from its original 150 pounds (68 kg) as the weight of the American college student has increased over the course of the league's existence.[2] League rules specify official weigh-ins four days and two days before each game. Players must weigh 178 pounds (81 kg) four days and 2 days prior to game day. Players are allowed to gain weight back after meeting the weight limit[17]

Notable players

Notable coaches

See also

References

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  2. ^ a b c d Thompson, Adam (2008-09-26). "A Small League for Little Dudes Is the New Hope at Mansfield U.". Wall Street Journal. p. A1.
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