PIAA moves closer to approving girls flag football as official sport

Wednesday, May 15, 2024 | 4:50 PM

High school girls flag football took an important step toward becoming an official PIAA-sponsored sport Wednesday.

The PIAA board of directors unanimously approved on a first reading to sanction girls flag football as a sport.

Girls flag football achieved emerging status last July by reaching 25 schools statewide. At the start of the spring season, more than 100 schools were fielding girls flag football teams.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles, with support from the NFL, have sponsored local leagues the past three years to help get this initiative off the ground.

Last week, Steelers President Art Rooney II sent a letter to PIAA executive director Bob Lombardi urging the PIAA board of directors to sanction girls flag football as a sport.

“Growing to that number (100 schools) in just our third season shows the impressive level of interest in the state,” the letter read. “Working in tandem with the National Football League, NFL Flag, the Philadelphia Eagles and the National Federation of State High School Associations, we have paved a path towards sustainable growth of girls flag football in Pennsylvania.”

This spring, 36 teams from Western Pennsylvania competed in five divisions, playing six regular season games.

A championship tournament will be held Sunday at Carnegie Mellon.

“We are very appreciative of the board of directors’ support and taking this first step to sanctioning girls flag football,” PIAA president Frank Majikes said in a statement. “We have a lot of work to do, but with the support of the Eagles, Steelers and the NFL, we’re hopeful of creating a solid foundation for girls flag football that will develop the sport for years to come.”

According to the National Federation of High School Associations, nine states have sanctioned girls flag football.

To date, 103 schools in Pennsylvania are sponsoring girls flag football, including 65 on the eastern side of the state.

In 2023, about 500,000 girls ages 6-17 played flag football, a 63% increase since 2019, according to NFHS President Karissa Niehoff.

The sport also was approved by the International Olympic Committee in October, and athletes will compete at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles in 2028.

Bill Hartlep is the TribLive sports editor. A Pittsburgh native and Point Park graduate, he joined the Trib in 2004, covering high school sports. He held various editing roles before assuming his current position in 2019. He can be reached at bhartlep@triblive.com.

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