NAIA Putting Its Flag Down in Football
Illustrating the growth of girls’ flag football as a collegiate sport, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) will be launching its second season of varsity girls’ flag football in the spring of 2022. There will be somewhere in the vicinity of 20 teams competing, according to research conducted by Team Insight. Two of the main NAIA conferences that will be competing are The Sun Conference, based in Florida and Georgia, and the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, with its headquarters in Wichita.
The Sun Conference had five Florida-based universities competing in the flag football frenzy in the spring of 2021 — Keiser University (West Palm Beach), St. Thomas University (Miami Gardens), Florida Memorial University (Miami Gardens), Webber International University (Babson Park) and Warner University (Lake Wales). This year, a sixth team from The Sun Conference will be competing in flag football — Thomas University (Thomasville, GA).
Sun Conference Commissioner Dustin Wilkie is thrilled at the enthusiasm for women’s collegiate flag football. “It’s really competitive and it’s a new frontier for us,” says Wilkie, from his Sun Conference office in Tampa, FL.
He’s also thankful for the backing that the National Football League has provided for this new crop of collegiate student-athletes. “The NFL has been a great supporter for girls’ flag football,” he adds. “It’s much appreciated.”
According to Wilkie, the regular season will run from February 2022 through April 2022, followed by its conference tournament. Soon thereafter, the NAIA will host its national playoffs.
Last year’s national tournament was held in Atlanta — Ottawa University from Kansas defeated Keiser University. According to Wilkie, no final decision has been made on where and when the 2nd NAIA national championship will be held.
The emergence of this new collegiate sport should spur more high school state associations to adopt girls flag football as a varsity sport, which will be a new sales revenue category for team dealers around the country.