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Sprint football is a varsity sport played by United States colleges and universities, under rules similar to American football. The sport is currently governed by the Collegiate Sprint Football League.

Unlike conventional collegiate football which places a premium on body weight and strength, sprint football emphasizes speed and agility. Players must maintain a weight of 172 lbs or less and a minimum of 5% body fat to be eligible to play. (The latter requirement is to prevent eating disorders among players.)[1]



Sprint football had a humble beginning, as Harvard and Yale fielded teams to provide additional entertainment before the varsity Harvard-Yale game. The University of Pennsylvania was the school to popularize the sport, however, as its president coined the term “Football for All,” and encouraged participation in this unique game. Eight lightweight teams competed in 1931, but only two of these remain in existence today — Princeton and Penn. In 1934, the sport was formalized with the start of the Eastern 150-pound Football League with Yale, Penn, Rutgers University, Lafayette College and Princeton University competing. The league was formed at schools which already had conventional football teams because “Football is a bodily contact sport in which weight is necessarily a significant factor...Efforts then to encourage participation among smaller and lighter men through weight classification would appear to be entirely justifiable.” [2]

The 150-pound limit as the basis for being a lightweight seems to have come about as a carryover from the sport of rowing, in which the weight is used to distinguish between lightweight and heavyweight crews. The football weight limit was increased in 1967 to 158 pounds, in 1998 to 166 pounds, and in 2005 to 172 pounds. Between the Wednesday weigh-in and game time, a player may gain back weight. In 1967, the league name was also changed, and “Lightweight” was substituted for “150-pound.” In 1998, the league voted to change "Lightweight" to "Sprint" and is now known as the Collegiate Sprint Football League (CSFL).

The five original members of the league were Lafayette, Penn, Princeton, Rutgers and Yale. Over the course of history, the following changes in the league’s makeup have taken place: Cornell entered in 1937; Yale ceased to play in 1942, Lafayette in 1943, Villanova in 1955, and Rutgers in 1990; Navy entered in 1946, Army in 1957; Columbia entered in 1955 and resigned in 1976. Mansfield University began competition against league opponents in 2008 and will formally enter into league competition in 2009. In 2005, the Virginia Military Institute fielded a team for the first time and scrimmaged against several CSFL members including Princeton and Army.[3]

As with wrestling, players over 172 pounds have an incentive to temporarily lose weight to pass the weight limit, typically through dehydration. To address concerns for the players' health and safety, and especially to discourage dangerous weight-loss techniques, CSFL rules require that players must not only meet the 172-pound weight, but 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. This is tested once during the preseason.

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 pay a weight penalty fine for weighing above the 172-pound limit.

Current Teams

US Military Academy (Army)
Cornell University
Mansfield University
US Naval Academy (Navy)
Post University
Princeton University
University of Pennsylvania

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.[4]
  • George Allen, the NFL Hall of Fame coach, most notably with the Washington Redskins, was an assistant sprint football coach at the University of Michigan in 1947.[1]
  • Donald Rumsfeld, the former Secretary of Defense, played sprint football for Princeton.[1]
  • Jimmy Carter, former President
  • Robert Kraft

See also


  1. ^ a b c Thompson, Adam (2008-09-26). "A Small League for Little Dudes Is the New Hope at Mansfield U.". Wall Street Journal: p. A1.  
  2. ^ Minutes, 1939 Eastern 150-pound Football League meeting, quoted in Cornell Sprint Football Media Guide
  3. ^ Retrieved 2008-09-25.
  4. ^ Cornell Athletics Dept. (2008). "The Collegiate Sprint Football League". Cornell Spirit Football Media Guide: p. 18.  

External links



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