Students at Howard Community College will have a chance to play competitive flag football beginning next year.

The women’s flag football program is going to start with a $10,000 grant from the National Junior College Athletic Association and competition will begin in spring 2025, according to the college.

“This program will be a major element of promoting women’s participation in sports at all ages, and expanding our college’s championship footprint across men’s and women’s on-field, on-court and e-sports programs,” Howard Community College President Daria J. Willis said in a statement.

The school’s athletic director said Howard Community College’s intramural flag football league has “been a big hit” and they’re excited to open up the opportunity to compete at an intercollegiate level.

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Mike Smelkinson, the athletic director, said he’s also “eager to hit the recruiting trail” and find students who have been playing competitive flag football at the high school level.

The school’s student government president, Brianna Jackson, helped organize a large homecoming flag football game of faculty versus students. The crowd was lively, Jackson said — and the students won.

It was so popular that she and some of her track coaches wanted to work toward making flag football an official sport on campus. When she learned it was happening, “I was pretty hype,” she said.

“I think it brings a lot of attention to women’s sports on campus. I feel like having this flag football team is really cool,” she said. “It will open a lot more opportunities for more women’s sports teams to come onto campus.”

A school spokesperson said they’re setting up summer combines and will start practicing in the fall. Jackson said she will not get to play, because she expects to transfer to a four-year college after the fall semester.

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Women’s flag football is growing in the state — Frederick County schools started the first varsity program for the sport in in Maryland in 2023. Earlier this year, the Ravens and Under Armour announced they were partnering with more school systems (Baltimore City, Montgomery County and Washington County) to expand high school girls’ flag football around the state.

Flag football is a version of the game seen on fall weekends, modified to prevent physical contact between players. The no contact rule and others are designed entirely to keep players safe, according to NFL Flag. Instead of tackling, a player is considered down when one or both of the flags they wear on their waist are removed.

Howard Community College has also been growing. In the last four years, it’s added e-sports and women’s softball to its intercollegiate athletics offerings. The school is also planning to open new athletics facilities in 2025.

Last year, the community college was named in the top 100 of all two-year institutions and the best in the Baltimore metro area by Niche, an online college selection resource.

Cody Boteler is a reporter on The Banner’s Express Desk, reporting on breaking news, trending stories and interesting things in and around Baltimore. His work has appeared in The Baltimore Sun, USA TODAY, Baltimore magazine and others.

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