Bethel to begin women's flag football team in 2022-23

Mark Schnabel
The Kansan

Bethel College will add women’s flag football to its athletic offerings beginning with the 2022-23 school year.

It will be the 19th sport offered by Bethel.

"Women's flag football is a unique and very fast-growing sport, particularly within the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics," Bethel College director of athletics Tony Hoops said. "With the support of the National Football League backing this collegiate sport, we are excited to enhance the overall student experience at Bethel College by adding flag football."

Three other schools in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference offer the sport — Ottawa, Saint Mary and Kansas Wesleyan. Cottey College and Midland University both offer the sport as KCAC associate members. Ottawa is the NAIA post-season tournament champion, which was played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Ottawa is coached by Liz Sowers, daughter of former BC women's basketball coach Floyd Sowers.

There are 14 NAIA teams competing, where it is sanctioned as an emerging sport.

The game is played on a field of 80 yards by 40 yards playing seven-on-seven. Both running plays and passing plays are permitted. A player is “tackled” when the flag on her belt is pulled by a defensive player.

It is primarily played in the spring. A team may play a maximum of 16 games in the regular season on 10 playing dates.

It is a championship sport at the high school level in five states — California, Nevada, Arkansas, Mississippi and Florida, as well as the District of Columbia. The National Junior College Athletic Association also is developing a program.

"Bethel is excited to be at the forefront" for the growth surrounding the sport,” Hoops said. "This will not only increase female athletic numbers of student-athletes on our campus but also allow for a more diverse population on campus comprised of athletes from the southwest and southeast parts of the country where women's flag football is very popular already in high schools."

"Women's flag football is a strategic addition to our varsity sports offerings at Bethel College," BC President Jon Gering said. "It emerged as the strongest candidate after a deliberate cost/benefit analysis of a suite of athletic programs.

"Bethel has a long and distinguished history of success in women's athletics. This program builds on that history. It has high growth capacity and will open up new geographic areas for recruiting."

The search for a new coach will take place beginning in July. The 2021-22 school year will be used to develop the program.