Sprint football, formerly called lightweight football, is a varsity sport played by United States colleges and universities, under standard American football rules. The sport is currently governed by the Collegiate Sprint Football League.
|Alderson Broaddus University||2019|
|US Military Academy (Army)||1957|
|Chestnut Hill College||2015|
|US Naval Academy (Navy)||1946|
|University of Pennsylvania||1934|
|St. Thomas Aquinas College||2018|
In sprint football, players must maintain a weight of 178 lb (81 kg) or less and a minimum of 5% body fat to be eligible to play. The end result of these weight restrictions is that, unlike conventional collegiate football which places a premium on body weight and strength, sprint football emphasizes speed and agility.
As of 2019, 10 schools field teams in the CSFL; of the 10, seven are private universities (two being schools in the Ivy League, and one being a for-profit institution) and two are national military academies; Mansfield University of Pennsylvania is the only state university or college currently playing sprint football. All of the teams are located in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic United States. Seven schools have joined in the 21st century, one in 2008 and the others in the 2010s; six remain active in sprint football today. Of these new members, only Franklin Pierce University, which joined in 2012, no longer sponsors the sport, having transitioned to full-sized football in NCAA Division II after the 2018 season. Of the 21st-century arrivals, only Alderson Broaddus University, also a Division II member, has 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. 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. Typically, the alumni have to donate a monetary weight penalty (e.g., $2 per pound) for weighing above the 178-pound limit. In 2017, when Caldwell joined, the CSFL was split into 2 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. After that season, Franklin Pierce left to play full-sized football and was replaced by Alderson Broaddus.
As of 2019, only one charter member of the league remains, the Penn Quakers. The Princeton Tigers dropped the sport after 2015, following sixteen consecutive years of winless seasons (an organized football record) and changes in league membership, and shifted its resources to club football. 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 64 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 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.
CSFL rules 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. League rules specify official weigh-ins four days and two days before each game. Players are allowed to weigh-in upto 183 pounds (82.6 kgs) four days before game but in order to be eligible to play they must weigh-in under 178 pounds (81 kg) on the two day weigh-ins. Players are allowed to gain weight back after meeting the weight limit
Notable players and coaches
- George Allen, NFL Hall of Fame coach, most notably with the Washington Redskins, was an assistant sprint football coach at the University of Michigan in 1947.
- Hoodie Allen (Steven Markowitz), American rapper. Played defensive back at Penn.
- Joseph Robinette "Beau" Biden III, Attorney General of Delaware, played at Penn.
- Antonio Buehler, civil liberties activist battling police corruption, Founder of Peaceful Streets Project. (United States Military Academy)
- Jimmy Carter, former US President, played for the United States Naval Academy.
- Jack Cloud. College Football Hall of Famer, former NFL player, in 1990. Cloud came to the Naval Academy in 1959 and spent the next 32 years in Annapolis coaching football, and the head lightweight (now called sprint) football coach from 1958–61, 1963–72 and 1980–82, in addition to teaching in the Physical Education Department.
- The Cullen family has been sprint football's leading advocates. Robert Cullen revived the Cornell team as its coach in 1946 following a suspension for World War II. His son, Terry Cullen became offensive coordinator in 1965 and co-head coach in the 1970s, and continues in that position.
- Dick Harter, college and NBA head coach, coached at Penn from 1958–1964.
- Robert Kraft, businessman and owner of the New England Patriots and the New England Revolution. (Columbia University)
- Jack McCloskey, college and NBA head coach, coached at Penn from 1954–1955.
- Sean Morey, former NFL player, coached the Princeton sprint squad for its last two seasons of existence.
- Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense, played sprint football for Princeton and was a captain.
- Eric Tipton, College Football Hall of Famer, Major League Baseball outfielder (1939–1945). Tipton was an assistant baseball and football coach at the College of William & Mary for 18 seasons, and then was the head baseball coach and Lightweight football coach at the United States Military Academy.
- Vincent Viola, billionaire businessman, philanthropist. (United States Military Academy)
- Official league website
- Official Navy sprint football page
- Official Cornell sprint football page
- Official Penn sprint football page
- Official Army sprint football page
- Official Mansfield sprint football page
- Official Chestnut Hill sprint football page
- Official Alderson Broaddus sprint football page
- New York Times article about Sprint Football
- Cornell Daily Sun article about Sprint Football
- Post University to Add Sprint Football Program for Fall 2010
- Caldwell University Adds Sprint Football for Fall 2017
- "Caldwell University Adds Sprint Football". Caldwell University Athletics. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
- "St. Thomas Aquinas joins CSFL". Collegiate Sprint Football League. Retrieved 15 December 2017.
- Thompson, Adam (2008-09-26). "A Small League for Little Dudes Is the New Hope at Mansfield U.". Wall Street Journal. p. A1.
- "Franklin Pierce statement" (Press release). Collegiate Sprint Football League. September 25, 2018. Retrieved September 6, 2019.
- "CSFL Rules -- 2010 Season". Collegiate Sprint Football League. 2009-11-10. Archived from the original on 2010-01-04. Retrieved 2010-02-13.
- "Army Sprint Football To Host Alumni Game". US Department of Defense. 2009-06-02. Retrieved 2010-02-13.
- "A Video History of the Sprint Football Alumni Game is Now Available on YouTube". Retrieved 2010-02-13.
- "Alderson Broaddus joins CSFL" (Press release). Collegiate Sprint Football League. October 9, 2018. Retrieved September 6, 2019.
- "csfl". csfl.
- Coder, Maria. "Sasha Obama Joins Vice President Joe Biden to Cheer US Team to World Cup Victory". People.com. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
- Cornell Athletics Dept. (2008). "The Collegiate Sprint Football League" (PDF). Cornell Spirit Football Media Guide. p. 18.
- AP. "Penn Coach Resigns for Oregon Job". News.Google.com. Shenectady Gazette. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
- Glassman, Les. "Time Out" (PDF). Library.Upenn.edu. The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved 20 September 2016.