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.
In sprint football, players must maintain a weight of 172 lbs 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.
|University of Pennsylvania||1934|
|US Naval Academy (Navy)||1946|
|US Military Academy (Army)||1957|
|Franklin Pierce University||2012|
|Chestnut Hill College||2015|
As of 2014, there are eight teams in the CSFL; of the eight, five are private universities (three being schools in the Ivy League, and one being a for-profit institution) and two are national military academies; currently Mansfield University of Pennsylvania is the only state university or college playing sprint football. All nine teams are located in the northeastern United States. Three teams have been added since the 2008 season; none of the new additions have full-size varsity football teams. A ninth team is set to be added in 2015, likely on a probational basis for the first year. The other five 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 the top-tier FBS, and the Ivy League schools in the second-level FCS. Each team plays a seven-game season. It is not uncommon for the CSFL teams to play against full-size junior varsity squads from other schools (in 2012, for instance, the Army sprint team scheduled a game against SUNY Maritime); this was generally more common before the CSFL began expanding in 2008. 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 172-pound limit.
The CSFL does not hold any sort of postseason (playoff or bowl), and the season championship is decided solely by regular season record.
CSFL rules require that players must meet a 172-pound weight, that they also must have a minimum body fat content of 5.0% by weight and a urine specific gravity of 1.020 or less. Players with a body fat of under 5% must weigh no more than 165 pounds. The body fat requirement exists to discourage players from losing excessive weight. League rules specify official weigh-ins four days and two days before each game with players allowed to gain back weight after meeting the weight limit but must remain under 177 pounds to practice with the team. Body fat and urine are tested once during the preseason.
Notable players and coaches
- 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.
- 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.
- Antonio Buehler, civil liberties activist battling police corruption, Founder of Peaceful Streets Project
- Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense, played sprint football for Princeton and was a captain.
- Jimmy Carter, former President, played for the United States Naval Academy.
- Robert Kraft, businessman and owner of the New England Patriots and the New England Revolution
- Eli Northrup, criminal defense attorney and rapper
- Jack Cloud. College Football Hall of Fame in 1990, drafted in the sixth round of the 1950 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers and played two seasons in Green Bay (1950–51) and two seasons with the Washington Redskins (1952–53). Cloud served one year as an assistant football coach at William & Mary and was the head coach and athletic director at Naval Station Norfolk from 1955-58. Cloud came to the Naval Academy in 1959 and spent the next 32 years in Annapolis coaching football and teaching in the Physical Education Department. He served as the head lightweight (now called sprint) football coach from 1958–61, 1963–72 and 1980–82, compiling an impressive 83-13-3 (.854) record and eight league championships
- Eric Tipton - College Football Hall of Fame inductee in 1965. 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. In 20 seasons his Army baseball teams were 234-201-5 with 3 league titles. His Army Lightweight football teams were 104-14-1 - a .878 winning percentage - with 13 league titles - still unsurpassed.
- Bill Wagner - Coach for over 40 years of the Penn Sprint Football team. During his tenure, Wagner was honored in 2002 when his name was put on the trophy that goes to the highest Ivy League finisher in the CSFL each year-the William R. Wagner Trophy. Wagner has had great success over the last few years capped by this past season, where his team went 6-1 and were named CSFL Co-Champions. The 2010 Quakers were also the recipient of the William R. Wagner Trophy, given to the highest placing Ivy League School. Prior to this season, he led the Quakers to a 4-3 mark in 2009 and 5-2 overall record in 2008-but achieved no greater accomplishment than an undefeated 6-0 season in 2000, the program's first perfect season since 1931. It was also the first time the Red and Blue defeated Army and Navy in the same season. Since 1996, Wagner has won over 70 percent of his games (66-28) and recorded a 41-26 CSFL (formerly Eastern Lightweight Football League) mark.
- 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 Princeton sprint football page
- Official Chestnut Hill 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
- Thompson, Adam (2008-09-26). "A Small League for Little Dudes Is the New Hope at Mansfield U.". Wall Street Journal. p. A1.
- "Sprint Football Comes to the Hill; Chestnut Hill College Joins Collegiate Sprint Football League, Grows Griffin Pride". Griffin Athletics. Retrieved 28 January 2015.
- "CSFL Rules -- 2010 Season". Collegiate Sprint Football League. 2009-11-10. 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.
- Cornell Athletics Dept. (2008). "The Collegiate Sprint Football League" (PDF). Cornell Spirit Football Media Guide. p. 18.