(Lyfe News) St. Thomas Aquinas, a 65 yr old college founded by Dominican nuns, which is currently running a counter play. It started a football program this season instead of ending one. The move, part of a strategy to increase male enrollment, but here’s the catch: At St. Thomas Aquinas, students would compete in sprint football, in which the players cannot weigh more than 178 pounds.
There is blocking and tackling, and players wear helmets and shoulder pads, and the game has plenty of opportunity for injury. But in sprint football, punishing collisions between 300-pound linemen and 190-pound tailbacks cannot occur. The game is more about speed and swing plays out wide than about pounding runs into the line and passes over the middle.
Administrators at St. Thomas Aquinasjust which has about 2,200 students and is nearly 15 miles north of New York City, said the benefits of fielding a squad outweighed the costs. They also saw sprint football as a safer alternative to conventional football, amid worries about brain injuries from repeated blows to the head. As insurance, the college’s athletic director, Gerry Oswald, also bought helmets equipped with sensors to alert trainers on the sideline when a player absorbed a big blow.
“So far, knock on wood, we haven’t had any really serious injuries,” Oswald said in a recent interview. “It’s a very competitive game, but within a reasonable weight limit on the field.”
Lori Rahaim, the head athletic trainer, walked into the college library, set up equipment and addressed 63 members of the team. It was training camp, and Rahaim had to explain what she expected from them regarding everything from hygiene to hydration. When done, she issued an order.
“I need you to strip down to as little clothing as possible,” she said. “Sneakers, shoes come off; socks stay on, and some kind of short apparel stays on.”
Some of the players said they came to the college specifically for the chance to play football, so one might say the program has already improved enrollment.
“We’ve seen an immediate effect,” said Michael DiBartolomeo, the university’s vice president for enrollment. “Overall numbers are up. More males on campus and in residence halls.”
Barry’s Spartans proved to be quick learners, or else they were simply good at football despite their size. In the opening game, at a home field 19 miles from campus, they rushed out to a 30-0 lead over Post University, of Waterbury, Conn., and won, 30-7, in front of 1,300 fans. Afterward, bagpipers from the Emerald Society serenaded Barry in the parking lot as his players stripped off gear inside a practice bubble that doubled as a locker room.
The director of football operations ordered 90 pizzas to celebrate. When the pizza arrived, players debated whether to eat it. They knew they would have to weigh in again three days later.
“Is there a healthier option?” quarterback Luke Sullivan said.