The Atlantic East Conference, in partnership with the NFL and RCX Sports, along with support from the Philadelphia Eagles, announced its plan to be the first NCAA Conference - Division I, II or III - to offer varsity female flag football with an anticipated start date of Spring 2025.
“Establishing women’s flag football has been a great honor for us and I am so excited to provide this opportunity for female athletes around the country,” said Atlantic East Commissioner Jessica Huntley. “The ever-growing high school ranks makes this a valuable step for our schools and the commitment to future growth with our athletic programs and women’s sports. I truly appreciate all of the guidance and support from the NFL, RCX Sports, and the Philadelphia Eagles.”
While varsity level status will not begin until Spring 2025, there are plans to offer club level opportunities and weekend tournaments for all participating next Spring (2024). The first season will include five institutions - Centenary, Cabrini, Immaculata, Marymount, and Neumann.
“When we started our girls flag league, our goal was to create more opportunities for female youth athletes to play the game by providing them with the equipment and resources needed to feel comfortable and confident engaging in the sport they love,” said Jen Kavanagh, Senior Vice President, Media and Marketing, Philadelphia Eagles. “We look forward to continuing to remove the barriers facing female athletes and supporting the Atlantic East Conference in their endeavors to bring flag football to more women at the collegiate level.”
“I believe sports have the power to transform lives, so one of our goals at RCX Sports is to increase access to flag football for women around the country,” said RCX Sports CEO Izell Reese. “I’m excited about this opportunity with the Atlantic East Conference as the first step towards growing a new generation of college athletes.”
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, there were over 11,000 participants in flag football in 2018-19. Fifty-two teams across Pennsylvania and New Jersey participated in the 2023 Eagles Girls Flag League presented by Gatorade, Hilco and Planet Fitness this spring, while seven states - Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and New York - sponsor the sport statewide. More than 1,800 NFL FLAG leagues are expected to take the field in 2023 for athletes as young as eight-years-old up to 17 years of age. As flag football continues to grow, the Atlantic East institutions are excited to provide those high school student-athletes the opportunity to continue with the sport at the collegiate level.
“The NFL, the Eagles, RCX Sports and the Atlantic East Conference working together is an example of how flag football can be expanded at the collegiate level,” said Troy Vincent, Sr., Executive Vice
President of NFL Football Operations. “The Atlantic East Conference is showing tremendous leadership as the first in the NCAA to elevate Flag, which will provide access for female athletes to play at the next level and further pursue their dreams."
“Since partnering with the Philadelphia Eagles last season to launch our Girls Flag Football program in the Philadelphia Public League, we’ve seen a rapid growth in the game across our city.” said Jimmy Lynch, Executive Director of Athletics for the School District of Philadelphia and President of the
Philadelphia Public League. “Our hope is to have Girls Flag Football become a sanctioned sport in our state in the coming years and to continue expanding on these opportunities for our female student- athletes”.
Women’s collegiate flag football showcases seven players on a football field that is 40 yards in width by 80 yards in length. Each team moves offensively by running or passing a football, while the defense tries to “tackle” by pulling flags on the belt of the ball carrier.
“We are proud to be a leader in the NCAA in providing this opportunity for women athletes,” said Huntley. “As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Title IX, the Atlantic East Conference continues to embrace the growth of women’s sports and this is just another step in our progress.”