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Unprecedented Growth Leads NAIA to Greenlight Women’s Flag Football to Emerging Sport Status

In over a month’s time since the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics announced that women’s flag football would be its newest sport, it has grown exponentially and was recently voted as the newest sport to receive emerging status by the NAIA National Administrative Council.

The start of women’s flag football, a joint effort with the NAIA and NFL, has been on a rapid ascent within the NAIA. Member institutions quickly pledged their schools to become one of the first to establish a team at their institution. This high level of interest allowed the NAIA governing bodies to recently grant the sport emerging status, which will put it on track to continue growth toward becoming a full championship sport over the foreseeable future.

“As anticipated, many NAIA member schools have quickly taken advantage of the opportunity to add women’s flag football for 2020-21,” said Jim Carr, NAIA president and CEO. “The financial assistance provided by the NFL has had a significant impact on participation, and the NAIA is grateful for the league’s support in this joint venture.” 

Before becoming a championship sport, the NAIA has two status levels. This gives a timely approach for the sport to find success and interest amongst NAIA membership. Emerging is that first step, which requires 15 schools to establish a program and declare intent to participate the following year. The next step for women’s flag football would be invitational status, which requires 25 schools to declare such intent. The final stage is becoming a championship sport, which requires a minimum of 40 schools and final approval from the NAIA.

Each of the 15 schools that have declared intent to participate in 2020 have been granted a $15,000 stipend from the NFL to aid the on-boarding process of the sport. Three of these schools are Historic Black Colleges and Universities, which were a key component to have involved from day one. Xavier University of Louisiana, Florida Memorial University and Tougaloo (Miss.) will be the three HBCUs that will lead the charge in women’s flag football beginning in the 2021 campaign.

“Adding women's flag football to the list of sports that we offer here at Florida Memorial University means that the amount of lives that we get to impact as an institution of higher education grows,” said Florida Memorial Athletic Director Ernest T. Jones. “More young women will have the opportunity to pursue their academic and athletic goals and potentially change their lives and their families' lives. We look forward to building a [women’s] flag football program that follows in the footsteps of all our other sports programs – one that chases academic excellence and championships.”

Kansas Wesleyan was one of the first institutions to announce they would create a women’s flag program, a distinction that director of athletics, Steve Wilson, was excited to have.

"Through everything we have experienced in collegiate athletics the last few months, being able to be on the front end of something so special for women's sports and the NAIA, as a whole, has been a welcome relief,” Wilson said. “Talking sports and planning can re-center you, at times. More importantly, though, the decision to be part of this was strategic. I firmly believe women's flag football will be an extremely high-profile offering, and we are excited to be able to help shape the initial steps of the sport within our organization. Working with the NFL is icing on the cake. There are just so many bright aspects of this sport's future."

The NAIA is finalizing the creation of the rule book and will be releasing information for potential hosts of the inaugural 2021 NAIA Women’s Flag Football Jamboree. Since its inception, the NAIA has worked with Reigning Champs Experiences, which operates the NFL Flag initiative for the NFL and has been instrumental in the process of bringing women’s flag football to the NAIA.

For more information on women’s flag football in the NAIA, click here.

NAIA Schools Committed to Women’s Flag in 2020-21

Cottey (Mo.)

Florida Memorial

Kansas Wesleyan

Keiser (Fla.)

La Sierra (Calif.)

Midland (Neb.)

Milligan (Tenn.)

Ottawa (Kan.)

Reinhardt (Ga.)

St. Thomas (Fla.)

Tougaloo (Miss.)

Saint Mary (Kan.)

Warner (Fla.)

Webber International (Fla.)

Xavier (La.)