QUINCY — Quincy University will have two football teams playing in the same stadium starting in the fall of 2022.
They will have different coaching staffs, different players, different uniforms, different leagues and will play entirely different schedules. The rules of the game will be the same except for one critical difference. No player on QU’s newest football team can weigh more than 178 pounds.
University officials introduced the creation of a “sprint football” team during a press conference Monday morning. The Hawks will be a charter member of the newly created Midwest Sprint Football League, which will have six teams when football season kicks off in 2022.
Sprint football will be the 22nd varsity sport offered at QU.
Teams joining QU for the inaugural season of the Midwest Sprint Football League are:
- Bellamine University in Louisville, Ky.;
- Calumet College of St. Joseph in Whiting, Ind.;
- Fontbonne University in Clayton, Mo.;
- Midway University in Midway, Ky.;
- Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ky.
”The tri-state area is very passionate about football, particularly high school football,” QU Athletic Director Josh Rabe said. “Unfortunately, with the way the game is going and the way the game is played right now, a lot of our high school kids don’t have the opportunity to play college football. We are creating an opportunity so students can follow their passion and hopefully follow their passion.”
Rabe hopes the first team in 2022 can field a 40-player roster. Brian McGee, president at Quincy University, said the rosters are to be capped at about 60 players in the MSFL, with the practice squad potentially going into the 80s.
“One of the things about this league is the team roster cap is designed to make sure everybody has an opportunity to play,” McGee said. “The competitive necessity for NCAA and the NAIA football regularly embraces rosters of over 100. That’s tougher a game, where there can only be 11 kids on the field at a time. So that is a benefit of the smaller roster model.”
McGee said he was approached by Nancy Blattner, president of Fontbonne University, about the possibility of joining the new league.
“I was initially skeptical,” McGee said. “The idea of weight classes for football didn’t exactly jibe for a guy who went to Ohio State for his PhD and taught guys who were 350 pounds and all muscle. I learned a lot from Dr. Blattner. We did our research. We realized that for this school at this time, this is a great model and sport that started to grow on the East Coast. This will be the biggest growth year for sprint football in its nearly 100-year history.”
After speaking with Blattner, McGee visited with QU football coach Gary Bass, interim athletic director Phil Conover and Rabe, who was completing his final season as the baseball coach before becoming the athletic director on June 1. McGee asked the three men if they had heard of sprint football and if they thought it would work at Quincy University.
“It was the first time I’ve ever seen Coach Bass speechless,” Rabe said with a grin. “He really didn’t say anything. Phil passed the buck along to me, and I was silent for a while because I was thinking about a lot of things.
“I went to Unity High School (in Mendon) and played football there, and I was thinking to myself how many people I played with or against, guys who were smaller people who did not have the opportunity to play college football but absolutely loved the sport.
“With the addition of sprint football, we’re going to create countless opportunities for young men locally to come to college and play their passion. The playing field is going to be even.”
“It’s just a shame we haven’t provided this opportunity before,” McGee said. “It’s going to be a game changer.”
Rabe says he plans to have a coach hired by the end of the summer.
The MSFL, an independent league that is not affiliated with the NCAA or the NAIA, is the second conference to offer sprint football in the United States. The nine-member Collegiate Sprint Football League is based on the East Coast. Participating teams are Army, Navy, Alderson Broaddus (W.Va.), Caldwell (N.J.), Penn, Chestnut Hill (Mass.), Cornell (N.Y.), St. Thomas Aquinas (N.Y.) and Mansfield (Pa.). Cornell, Alderson Broaddus, Army and Navy offer both NCAA football and sprint football.
Rabe said that the MSFL has had talks with the CSFL about possibly creating a bowl game for the winners of each league. He also said the rosters of the two football teams at QU will not be interchangeable.
Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former President Jimmy Carter and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft are among the most notable people who played sprint football, which started in 1934.
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