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Midland University becomes first school in Nebraska to add women's flag football as a varsity sport

Posted at 6:54 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-13 19:54:24-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Midland University announced this week it will be adding women’s flag football as its 33rd varsity sport. The program will start pay in Spring 2021 and will have 25 student-athletes on the roster.

“Flag football has actually been growing in terms of youth,” said Midland President Jody Horner. “Football is for everyone and at Midland we’re really proud to offer student-athletes this new opportunity.”

In 2017 the NFL estimated 45-percent of its fans are female and are looking to give women the opportunity to play. The league is offering $15,000 stipends to the first 15 schools to add the sport. The sport will be a varsity women’s sport at NAIA institutions. Midland Athletic Director Dave Gillespie said other schools in the region to add women’s flag football include Ottawa University and Kansas Wesleyan University.

“We are looking for opportunities for all of our student-athletes,” Gillespie said. “If there is an interest there and they can come here and do what they’re passionate about and get a college degree that’s what we’re all about.”

Women’s flag football isn’t a high school sanctioned sport in Nebraska, but has a large number of high school participants in states such as Florida, California and Nevada. Midland plans to recruit these hotbeds and will be offering scholarships to play.

“We’re going to scholarship women’s flag football the same as any other sport,” said Merritt Nelson, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Marketing at Midland. “They’ll range from partial scholarship up to full tuition.”

This isn’t the first time Midland’s been at the forefront of adding upcoming sports. The school was the first in the state to offer sports such as e-sports and lacrosse and currently boasts the most varsity programs of any athletic department in Nebraska.

“Just having the offerings that we have definitely provides to the student experience as students come to Midland not only for the education but can also partake in the big college atmosphere while being at a smaller campus,” Nelson said.

The decision comes at an interesting time, as universities are looking to find ways to cut costs during the coronavirus pandemic. A sample budget provided by the NAIA projects schools could potentially bring in nearly $600,000 in added revenue each year by adding women’s flag football as a varsity sport. While schools are considering dropping athletic programs, President Horner said this will not be the case at Midland.

“We do not have plans to cut any of our 33 varsity sports at Midland University,” Horner said.

Flag football will be one of 15 female sports the university offers. The university also offers 14 men’s sports and four co-ed sports. The school said if a prospective student-athlete is interested in playing flag football at Midland, they should reach out to the university.

Watch reporter Phil Bergman’s story in the above video.