By Mckenzie Masters
Under the bright lights of an athletic field off campus, a screaming crowd braces against the cold. Players wear determined looks. Spirits are high. Flag football season has begun.
Every fall, students crowd West Jackson Baptist Church’s athletic fields to watch their peers compete. Teams are divided into upper and lower divisions and consist of undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff. Each upper division team competes for the trophy that is awarded at the end of the season.
Once an integral part of Union’s athletics, the collegiate football team’s last season was in 1953. The highlight of the team came when Paul “Bear” Bryant, former University of Alabama football coach, began his career as Union’s assistant football coach in 1936.
Scott Mahler, senior mechanical engineering major and cornerback/wide receiver for an independent upper division men’s team, the Bee’s Knees, said he considers flag football a substantial substitute for the lack of an actual football team’s presence on campus.
“Flag football is definitely the biggest intramural sport at Union,” Kahler said. “In the South, obviously football is the biggest sport. Flag football gives Union the opportunity to have some of the ‘football experience’ even though we don’t have a collegiate football team.
“You see fans painting their chests and faces or bring noise makers, and getting to play under the lights is a major increase to the atmosphere.”
Drawing large crowds, the flag football games bring a level of competition and provide an opportunity to those who do not participate in collegiate sports.
Kristen Miller, junior business administration major and quarterback for Kappa Delta 2, views flag football as a way to bond not only with her teammates but competitors as well.
“I love the community that flag football provides,” Miller said. “I love getting to play with my Kappa Delta sisters and the sisterhood that provides and also the opportunity to meet people on the other teams.”
Intramural football provides a sense of community for students playing in teams, says Leah Claire Hall, junior elementary education major and quarterback for an independent upper division women’s team, We Need Oxygen.
“My favorite part of playing flag football is how all parts of Union are involved,” Hall said. “I love how it is made up of Greeks, Independents, faculty and staff. I also enjoy the competition and getting to play with girls that I normally don’t hang out with on an everyday basis.”
Ending in October, the season will conclude with a tournament that leads to the coveted championship game. A trophy will be awarded to the top-ranking men’s and women’s teams in the upper division.
“Flag football is something very important to all of us,” said Kacee Enzor, sophomore broadcast journalism major. “It really helps to fill the void that not having a real football team leaves.”