Flag football added by NAIA member institutions.
Five months ago, Allison Maulfair and Spencer Mauk thought they were done with competitive flag football.
Mauk was attending Florida Gulf Coast University and playing on an intramural team there, but just for fun. Maulfair was attending the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, where there wasn't even an intramural team to join. Instead, she volunteered as a flag football assistant coach at Lakewood Ranch High, the school she and Mauk graduated from earlier in 2019.
Then, on May 4, the NAIA and the NFL, along with Reigning Champs Experiences, announced they were partnering to create the first-ever collegiate women's flag football league.
The NAIA invited interested players to send in their contact information, which it would then send to its member schools intent on starting a program. The plan was to begin playing in the spring of 2021 with 25-person rosters. Rules dictate the league would play seven against seven, on a field 80 yards long (with 10-yard end zones) and 40 yards wide. Teams have to gain 20 yards for a first down.
"When I saw that announcement, I got so excited," Maulfair said. "I started playing (flag) football as a freshman in high school. I played both in school and on a club team. It was a huge part of my life and I have a passion for it. But when I started playing, I knew there was not an opportunity for me to play it in college like there is for other sports. Seeing this opportunity, I thought to myself 'You have to be kidding, no way.' It was truly a dream come true."
"I always said that if there was an opportunity to play somewhere on a scholarship, I would take it," Mauk said. "Now there is."
Maulfair texted Mauk about the opportunity. She, too, was excited, so they both applied, first through the general NAIA application, then to individual schools. Mauk said the applications asked players to send in highlights, if available, and any awards they has won.
One of the schools on both of their lists was Midland University (Neb.). They drove to Midland together on June 21 for an official visit.
Mauk and Maulfair both said they enjoyed the visit, even though at the time of the visit there was no flag football coach in place. They were granted access to the Presidential Suite in the team's stadium and met with Bode Hill, the school's assistant athletic director.
"He didn't try to oversell us on the school," Maulfair said. "He didn't pressure us to commit, either. He just told us what the school offered and what it would be like being there every day. I liked that."
Maulfair said the campus was beautiful and that the whole experience was positive. On their drive home, Hill called them to tell them they had hired a coach, Jaison Jones, a former assistant coach in the National Women's Football Conference. A talk with Jones would later seal the deal for both Mauk and Maulfair, who signed on July 13 and 14, respectively, becoming scholarship athletes.
"For me, I'm excited to try something new," Maulfair said. "I grew up here and I went to SCF my first year. I wanted to get out, to meet new people. I'm ready for a change and I am excited to be able to help build something. I spent my first two years of high school play at Armwood High before transferring to Lakewood Ranch. When I got there, it was the Mustangs' first season, too. I liked being the one to teach people the game and to watch them grow. I am ready for a similar challenge at Midland."