By Candace Martino
Down. Set. Hike! The University of Tampa club flag football team is calling all those interested in joining their roster this fall. For those students who can’t get enough of the football action and posses a valuable skill set, joining the flag football team might sound appealing–especially considering UT doesn’t have an NCAA football team of their own.
The club is entering its third year of competition play under The National Intramurals-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA), the governing body for all college recreational programs. NIRSA assures a safe and healthy playing environment for those who are interested in taking the field come October. Prospective participants must meet the eligibility requirements found on the respective web page in order to be eligible for competition play. Regardless of one’s gender, NIRSA encourages all students to engage in collegiate recreational activities and are more than willing to accommodate to each gender accordingly.
Of note, there are some changes to be accounted for when gearing up to play flag football. Unlike regulation football, players wear four or more flags attached to their belts and tackling is prohibited. The field measures 80 yards by 40 yards; starting from the five-yard line, and teams have three downs to cross midfield or to score. Three extra downs are rewarded for crossing midfield, and the ball changes hands if the team fails to do so.
Though rules and regulations may differ, the concept of winning it all remains the same. Chris Grisby, a senior communications major, has been with the team since early fall of 2013. Closely working with the Campus Recreation coordinators, Grisby assures that all funding is budgeted properly and scheduling tournaments runs smoothly. With hopes advancing further than ever before, the team looks to capture regionals for the third consecutive season. But for now, Grisby believes the team has a lot of work yet to be done.
UT kicked off the start of preseason this past week taking the field for the first time during Delta Zeta’s Rose Bowl: Hike for Hearing. After finishing in second place, Grisby was left disappointed in the weekend’s performance.
“We didn’t play as [well] as we should have. We ended up losing in the championship game. But, that’s what preseason is for. We will identify our weak points and work on them before we head to The University of Florida.”
For the past two years, UT has won the Regional Tournament, giving them an automatic berth to the National Championship held in Florida during winter break. Unfortunately, the team was not able to attend due to time constraints. University of West Florida will yet again be hosting the National Championship for the third straight year on Jan. 2, 2016.
“If we qualify for nationals, we do plan on going this year,” Grisby said, “We plan on just playing normal football like we have been doing the past two years and get the job done.”
However, the team has to take care of business first on the field in order to get there. University of Florida, a flag football powerhouse, will host the first regional tournament of the season, “The Swamp Bowl,” from Oct. 23-25.
“I want us to be able to come together as a team, win a few games and show that we are a team that will not lose easily. The team is proud to represent the university and we want everyone to know who UT is and what we are about,” sophomore outside linebacker Houston Walls said.
Representing UT at these tournaments is one thing Campus Recreation prides itself on while competing at a high level of excellence. The team holds practice at least twice a week, competes in two preseason tournaments, and boasts a busy regular season schedule. With the first official tournament less than a week away, they’re excited to take the field and get to work.