Big Ten Conference head coaches discuss burgeoning opportunities for women and girls in football

By Samuel Teets | Posted 9/7/2022

Opportunities for girls and women to participate in football have expanded exponentially during the past decade. Currently, five states have sanctioned girls’ high school flag football as a varsity sport, and several others are rapidly advancing toward that point. The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) also hosts a championship in women’s flag football. Openings to coach and play tackle football are growing too, as members of the gold medal-winning 2022 U.S. Women’s Tackle National Team and their head coach, Callie Brownson of the Cleveland Browns, will attest.

As a proud supporter of football for all, USA Football recently spoke with the Big Ten Conference’s head football coaches at the conference’s annual football media days in Indianapolis about the broadening horizon for girls and women in football. Here are some of their responses:

“I founded an organization called the National Coalition of Minority Football Coaches, and we have quite a few women who are involved with the organization. Each and every year, I keep seeing women who can flat-out coach. They understand football and they bring a different perspective in terms of their approach and how they teach and nurture football players. They’ve really been great for the game. I hope to continue to see that movement. You’re seeing it with officials, coaches, and then obviously the women’s leagues that are going on. It’s another opportunity to expand the great game of football.”

     --Mike Locksley, University of Maryland

 

“As a person who was raised in a single-parent home by his mom and an older sister, married a strong, competitive, super intelligent, athletic wife, and has two daughters who both played flag football, I think it’s awesome to see women getting more opportunities in football. The game should not be specific to a certain sex. I don’t mean that specifically about flag football. I think football in general is for everyone, and we’ve seen that. I think we could see more of that, but I do think flag football offers an opportunity for young men and women to have the opportunity to play the game and promote the game of football in all different avenues and in all different situations.”

     --James Franklin, Penn State University

 

“More women and girls are enjoying football because they’ve been allowed to participate, and we’ve changed our views as a society. They should be able to play. I immediately go to my own daughters, my eight and nine-year-old daughters. I could see them both playing football. They haven’t had any interest in it yet, but I could see them doing it. They should have the right to play. Depending on what type of league they want to be in, tackle football or flag football, there could be a lot of different options. I think football is the ultimate team sport, and everybody should be able to enjoy it. I think of my own daughters every time I get a question about women or girls in football. Would I tell them they can’t do something? I would never tell them that when they talk about playing a sport. I will support them one hundred percent.”

     --P.J. Fleck, University of Minnesota

 

“I sure hope we continue to have girls playing football. I said a number of years ago, I look forward to the day at the collegiate level when I get the opportunity to coach a female athlete. I think that day is coming, I don’t know how far away it is, but it’s on the horizon. Right now, football is a brotherhood, but it will eventually be a brotherhood and sisterhood. That makes it unique to our game where different socio-economic backgrounds, races and religions come together like no other sport. We’ve been pretty selfish as guys. We’ve kept it to ourselves forever, and now we’re seeing women and especially young women having the opportunities to participate. I look forward to the day when I get the privilege to coach a young woman who is our first female player at Northwestern.”

     --Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern University

 

“My daughter wants to know why she can’t play football. She asks me that on a weekly basis and doesn’t take no for an answer. It’s hard to explain. I think women and girls who love the sport want to play. They see the game being played, they love what the sport means, and they want the opportunity to play. I think the expanded opportunities for women and girls are a great way to get them started with the game.”

     --Ryan Day, Ohio State University

 

“I think there’s been a lot of movement to give girls more opportunities to play sports. It’s wonderful to see them take part in football. My mother was a high school football coach for 25 or 30 years. Giving young girls the opportunity to pick and choose what they want to do can only help, and I’m grateful that boys and girls alike are getting the opportunity to play football.”

     --Scott Frost, University of Nebraska

 

“I’ve got daughters, and I want them to find something they enjoy doing and are passionate about. Anytime you can compete and be part of a team, those are great experiences. Who enjoys watching football isn’t decided by if you’re male or female. It’s not broken down that way. Opportunities for all to play should exist.”

     --Paul Chryst, University of Wisconsin

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