A College started out a Tackle Football Team. For Little Guys.

SPARKILL, N.Y. — In much of the United States, This specific is actually an era of disappearing tackle football programs.

Tightening budgets along with concerns about safety along with liability have combined to spell the end of football at colleges like Hofstra in Hempstead, N.Y., along with St. Mary’s College of California.

Then there is actually St. Thomas Aquinas, a 65-year-old college founded by Dominican nuns, which is actually currently running a counter play. This specific started out a football program This specific season instead of ending one. The move, part of a strategy to raise male enrollment, not actually one to compete for gridiron glory, came which has a wrinkle: At St. Thomas Aquinas, students could compete in sprint football, in which the players cannot weigh more than 178 pounds.

There is actually blocking along with tackling, along with players wear helmets along with shoulder pads, along with the game has plenty of opportunity for injury. however in sprint football, punishing collisions between 300-pound linemen along with 190-pound tailbacks cannot occur. The game is actually more about speed along with swing plays out wide than about pounding runs into the line along with passes over the middle.

Given which, administrators at St. Thomas Aquinas, a private liberal arts college of roughly 2,0 students 15 miles north of brand new York City, said the benefits of fielding a squad outweighed the costs. They also saw sprint football as a safer alternative to conventional football, amid worries about brain injuries by repeated blows to the head. As insurance, the college’s athletic director, Gerry Oswald, also bought helmets equipped with sensors to alert trainers on the sideline when a player absorbed a big blow.

“So far, knock on wood, we haven’t had any actually serious injuries,” Oswald said in a recent interview. “This specific’s a very competitive game, however within a reasonable weight limit on the field.”

which weight limit carries its own requirements along with regimens.

One morning in August, Lori Rahaim, the head athletic trainer, walked into the college library, set up equipment along with addressed 63 members of the team. This specific was training camp, along with Rahaim had to explain what she expected by them regarding everything by hygiene to hydration. When done, she issued an order.

“I need you to strip down to as little clothing as possible,” she said. “Sneakers, shoes come off; socks stay on, along with some kind of short apparel stays on.”

“within the library?” wideout James Hanigan said.

“We have three already-calibrated digital scales,” she said. “We’re not messing around.”

The weigh-ins happen twice per week in season.

“Mama’s cooking, mama’s cooking,” the team’s head coach, Matt Barry, said which day. “You got to stay off This specific if you want to make This specific. We’ve got starters at 150 pounds. There are no hogs here.”

The Spartans finished their first season which has a 2-4 record. This specific was capped by a 33-12 loss to Mansfield University of Pennsylvania last Friday. This specific was a long way by four years ago, when Oswald raised the idea of bringing football to the college, where 54 percent of the students are female.

Administrators considered the proposal, then set This specific aside. Margaret Fitzpatrick, the college’s president, later conferred with her colleagues at Chestnut Hill College, in Philadelphia, along with Caldwell University, in brand new Jersey. Like St. Thomas, they compete at the Division II level in some other sports. Fitzpatrick learned about their experiences with sprint football, along with then gave Oswald the green light last year.

“I had a program before I even had a football,” Oswald said.

The Spartans gained admission to the Collegiate Sprint Football League, which governs the sport, in January. Barry, who was hired a few months earlier, hit the recruiting trail. His sprint football practices were conducted in nearby Tallman Mountain State Park while land was cleared on college property to make way for a 60-yard practice field across the street by a convent. Only one goal post was raised because if balls were kicked on the some other end of the field, they could fly into electrical wires. Barry adjusted to the role of building by rock bottom.

“My own mother called This specific spring football,” he said. “She’s 91. She goes, ‘Tell me why again you’re playing within the spring?’ I said, ‘Mom, This specific’s sprint!’ My sister made a big sign: SPRINT FOOTBALL. My buddies ask, ‘is actually This specific flag?’”

Barry, who had coached conventional football at several high schools, never watched a sprint game before taking the job. Games can be hard to find. There are only 10 teams which play sprint football at the college level. The College Sprint Football League traces its roots to the Eastern 150-Pound Football League, which was founded in 1938 in response to the increasing size of college football players at the time. Army, Navy, Cornell, Penn along with Princeton were the original members, however the league, which doubled in size over the last decade, has gradually increased the allowable weight.

This specific took one college dropping out for St. Thomas to enter the fraternity. In 2016, Princeton, which continues to play conventional football within the Ivy League, ended its sprint football program after 106 consecutive losses. University officials announced which a committee “concluded which maintaining the program in its current form creates an unacceptably high risk of injury along with does not permit the team to aspire to the level of success which Princeton expects.”

In stepped the Spartans. Players came by Texas, Florida, North Carolina along with Rhode Island to join teammates mostly by brand new York. Over the course of a few months, Joe Frias, a 6-foot lineman by Washington Heights, dropped by 260 pounds to 183 pounds along with finally reached the required goal before the third game.

Rahaim along with Barry implored players to be healthy. To guard against players trying to sweat off extra pounds or purging, urine samples are taken along with body fat percentages are examined. When Barry walked through the cafeteria during a recent lunch hour, players held up plates with chicken along with broccoli.

“I used to use a Lombardi saying: ‘You’ve got to pay the cost,’” he said. “today This specific is actually: ‘You’ve got to lose the weight!’”

Some of the players said they came to the college specifically for the chance to play football, so one might say the program has already enhanced enrollment.

“We’ve seen an immediate effect,” said Michael DiBartolomeo, the university’s vice president for enrollment. “Overall numbers are up. More males on campus along with in residence halls.”

Barry’s Spartans proved to be quick learners, or else they were simply not bad at football despite their size. within the opening game, at a home field 19 miles by campus, they rushed out to a 30-0 lead over Post University, of Waterbury, Conn., along with won, 30-7, in front of 1,300 fans. Afterward, bagpipers by the Emerald Society serenaded Barry within the parking lot as his players stripped off gear inside a practice bubble which doubled as a locker room.

The director of football operations ordered 0 pizzas to celebrate. When the pizza arrived, players debated whether to eat This specific. They knew they could have to weigh in again three days later.

“is actually there a healthier option?” quarterback Luke Sullivan said.