|US Military Academy||1957|
|Chestnut Hill College||2015|
|Franklin Pierce University||2012|
|US Naval Academy||1946|
|University of Pennsylvania||1934|
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 lb (78 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 2016, eight schools field teams in the CSFL; of the eight, five are private universities (two 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 eight teams are located in the northeastern United States. Four teams have been added since the 2008 season; none of the new additions has a full-size varsity football team. The newest addition in 2015, Chestnut Hill College, is likely to be on a probational basis for the first year. 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 the FBS, and the Ivy League schools in the 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 172-pound limit.
As of 2016, 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.
The CSFL does 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 is decided solely by the regular season record; if multiple teams are tied atop the standings, all of them share the championship. Since Navy's and Army's respective admissions to the league, those two schools have dominated the league; of the 69 seasons of lightweight football since Navy joined, they and/or Army have won the league title in 63 of them.
CSFL rules require that players must weigh no more than 172 pounds (78 kg). They must also 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 content of under 5% must weigh no more than 165 pounds (74.8 kg). The purpose of the body fat requirement is to discourage players from losing excessive weight. League rules specify official weigh-ins four days and two days before each game. Players are allowed to gain weight back after meeting the weight limit but must remain under 177 pounds (80.3 kg) to practice with the team. Body fat and urine are tested once during the preseason.
Notable players and coaches
- Joseph Robinette "Beau" Biden III, Attorney General of Delaware, played at Penn.
- 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. (United States Military Academy)
- 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. (Columbia University)
- Eli Northrup, criminal defense attorney and rapper. (Cornell)
- 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.
- 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.
- Dick Harter, college and NBA head coach, coached at Penn from 1958-1964.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.