The Miami Dolphis have hosted a flag football combine with local high school teams.

The Miami Dolphis have hosted a flag football combine with local high school teams.  

Football programs could come to Florida’s state college system after top education officials repealed a rule that has prohibited colleges from having teams --- but it’s likely schools will launch flag football teams to start.

The State Board of Education approved repealing the decades-old rule.

Rob Chaney, associate director and athletics commissioner for the Florida College System Activities Association, said the change is likely a move to set up the creation of women’s flag football teams on state college campuses.

The national governing body that oversees junior college sports in March announced women’s flag football as an “emerging sport,” declaring the 2021-2022 school year the sport’s inaugural season.

Chaney said the rule prohibiting football teams was on the books for “40 years or maybe a little longer” and likely was “a way of protecting gender equity” in state college sports.

Most of Florida’s state universities have men’s tackle football teams. Even if state colleges don’t start such teams in the immediate future, Wednesday’s rule change could set that in motion down the road, Chaney said.

Chaney, who previously was an athletic director for Tallahassee Community College, said he once did an interview with a California newspaper about the number of junior college football recruits coming to California from Florida.

“Behind obviously California, the state that’s provided the most participants into their system was the state of Florida. So they wanted to know, why is that? I think a lot of people outside (Florida), they might not even be able to tell you we don’t offer football in the two-year system. But that was the reason why, it was just never an option,” Chaney said.

There was at least one attempt in the past by lawmakers to open up the possibility of football in state colleges, Chaney recalled, but ultimately it never materialized.

“I can remember about 15 years ago, sometime (in the) mid-2000’s, there was a little bit of movement from one of the state representatives,” Chaney said. “Just trying to get support through the Legislature to get that rule removed. Not to create or establish football in the two-year system, but just to give the schools the opportunity to look at that and make a decision. But that got no support at the time.”

The National Junior College Athletic Association partnered with the National Football League to provide $10,000 grants to member colleges that “declare their intent to participate” in women’s flag football over the next two years.

Florida Gateway College in Lake City was a recipient of one of those grants, indicating that at least one college in the state is planning to field a women’s flag football team.

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