NAIA partners with NFL to launch women's flag football as a recognized varsity sport

The NAIA and NFL are working toward making women’s flag football a sanctioned college sport.

On Monday, the small colleges governing body and the NFL announced their intentions to have flag football as an official NAIA varsity sport by 2021.

“Football is for everyone,” NFL vice president Troy Vincent said in a statement. “This groundbreaking and historic joint venture provides an opportunity for the values, fun and competitive environment of football to be enjoyed as a varsity sport by female student-athletes attending NAIA institutions across America.”

The NAIA said in a release that it plans to start the first women’s college flag football season in the spring of 2021. A showcase will be held in the fall for prospective athletes looking to join a school’s flag football team.

For women’s flag football to be classified as an emerging sport by the NAIA, at least 15 member schools will need to field teams while an “invitational championship” is held for sports that have at least 25 participants. A minimum of 40 schools need to have teams for a full championship to be held. The NAIA said it wanted to host an emerging sport championship in 2022.

”The NAIA is thrilled to partner with the NFL and [Reigning Champs Experiences] in launching women’s flag football,” NAIA president Jim Carr said. “This is a fantastic opportunity for our members to expand their athletics programming with support from valuable partners like RCX and one of the most relevant and successful professional sports leagues in the world.”

More women and girls have expressed interest in playing football in recent years even as overall participation in tackle football has declined. While tackle football participation has gone down, the number of kids playing flag football has gone up as the NFL has promoted its co-ed flag football options more. Per a 2018 New York Times article, participation in the NFL’s flag football program had increased by nearly 50 percent in the previous five years.

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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