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History Of Flag Football

Brief History Of Flag Football

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Long before the "X Games" or the  " X F L "
  there was flag football ...
     The modern game of American Football is tame compared to its early roots when in the early 1900's President Teddy Roosevelt threatened to ban the sport because of plays like the "Flying Wedge." The play involved a number of offensive lineman with suitcase handles sewed onto their pants forming a wedge with lineman holding on to the player in front, and a ball carrier safely positioned in the middle. As the "wedge" rumbled down the field the opposition players went "flying" and were left in a crumpled mass on the ground in it's wake. With so many broken bones and other serious injuries- even deaths, safety rules had to be applied. Thus helmets, shoulder pads and other protective equipment now define the modern game of football.
But not Flag Football ... no helmets and shoulder pads allowed ...


The History


The game of American football has been played since the mid-1800's. The first College game occurred between Princeton and Rutgers on Nov. 6, 1869. And the professional game has been played in some form since 1895.
  The game of Touch and Flag Football has been around nearly as long as tackle football. 

The first remembrance of organized Touch and Tail Football being played was in the 1930's. Flag football was developed on military bases in  the early 1940's as a recreational sport for military personal. Recreational leagues soon developed in the late 40's early 50's. They were patterned around the softball league format and the game we know and love today was born.

As a freshman in 1973 at Washington University in St. Louis, I was introduced to touch and flag football. At that time St. Louis already enjoyed a long history of organized league play. St. Louis is the birthplace of the first national flag football organization - the National Touch Football League. It was formed in the 1960's and has played a national championship game since 1971. It also produced the first standardize rulebook and it's Hall of Fame for flag football players has been adopted buy other national organizations. 

The college intramural game of the 60's and 70's was a 7 man contact game that in no way resembles the non-contact "screen flag football " game played today. The annual National Collegiate Flag Football Championships are  played each December at the  University of New Orleans. There has been a National College Champion crowned on the UNO campus every year since 1979. The first non intramural screen flag national championship game was first played in 1981. For several years the tournament was held in Shreveport, LA.

The first major competition to the NTFL was formed in 1988 as an outgrowth of the NTFL when it's regional director Mike Cihon broke free to create the United States Flag Touch Football League. The USFTL National Flag Football Tournament in Orlando is the largest non college tournament in the nation. It drew 175 teams in January 2002 and crowned 11 National Champions.

The next year, the United States Flag Football League Semipro was incorporated in North Carolina by Tim Langdon. The concept was to have teams represent a franchised city and it offered cash awards for players at tournaments. It would later become the basis for the first professional league. 

The AFTFL was formed in 1991 by George Higgins after a dispute between Higgins and USFTL director Mike Cihon. The league has grown from it's Long Island roots to host a competing national championship tournament in Atlanta in February.

Many other "national organizations" have formed since the mid 90's to take advantage of the more than 20 million players participating in flag football programs. As the list grows, there have been many attempts to "unify" flag football. The  crown just one national champion ever since. 

In 1997, an attempt was made in this direction with the formation of the Professional Flag Football League, Inc.. The directors of the USFTL, AFTFL and the USFFL met in Cleveland, Ohio and agreed in principal to have the top nine man teams in the nation participate in four regional tournaments in the summer of 1998. The events were played in  Cleveland, Raleigh, Pittsburgh, and Albany. The winners of these four events would take home $2,500 in cash and play a single elimination "Pro Flag Bowl" on the Hall of Fame field in Canton, Ohio. The Cleveland Gibbs team won three of the events and $7,500 in cash. They met in Canton with the Baltimore Cowboys, the Metro Chiefs from Washington, DC, and New York's LoMonico's. Cleveland played a Baltimore team that featured former Virginia QB Shawn Moore and Maryland QB Brian Cummings in the Championship Game. Cleveland won a hard fought game and added a Pro Championship Ring to their long history of flag football successes. 

Cleveland Gibbs - 1998 Pro Flag Bowl Champions

Cutters - 1999 Pro-Flag Challenge Champions

In 1999, the PFFL played the first ever professional flag football travel schedule with teams in Buffalo, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Toledo, and Indianapolis. The games were played in regulation format. Cleveland  won the regular season with the best record overall. But with three teams folding before the end of regular season play and a failure of the Buffalo team and Cleveland team to play the scheduled league championship game, the league was deemed only a partial success. The failure of league play was overshadowed a successful six event Pro-Flag Challenge Tournament series that saw a great Cutters team from Maryland win the 2nd Pro Flag Football Championship in Atlantic City.

Will there be an attempt to unite the leagues again ... the history of flag football  has not been written, but chances are slim. Why? Because flag football has become BIG BUSINESS.

Copyright - Tim Langdon - All Rights Reserved

History of Women's and Girls Flag Football