Big Ten Conference head coaches support opportunities for women in football

By Samuel Teets | Posted 10/23/2023

USA Football recently continued its long-standing relationship with the Big Ten Conference by attending the conference’s 2023 Football Media Days held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. The quotes in this story were produced from a series of one-on-one sit-down interviews with the head football coaches responsible for programs in the Big Ten.  

USA Football’s mission is to lead, strengthen and grow Football For All®. Some of the ways the non-profit achieves this goal include encouraging and supporting new opportunities for girls and women to participate in football through grant opportunities and the U.S. Women’s Flag and Tackle National Teams.  

As more states sanction girls’ flag football as a high school varsity sport and the game strengthens its foothold at the NAIA level, there are more opportunities now than ever before for girls and women to play or coach the sport they love. The Big Ten Conference’s head football coaches recently shared their support of the broadening horizon for girls and women in football.  

“I hope the trend of more women playing and coaching football will continue. I was at a family reunion last week and one of my cousin’s kids was throwing perfect spirals. I spent some time talking to her, and she hasn’t been able to find opportunities to plug into football. I told her that there are some opportunities for girls to play flag football at the high school level in the Chicago area. We need to find ways for young ladies like her to get involved in this game as their passion for the sport continues to grow.” 

– David Braun, Northwestern University 

“Women love football. They love to follow the game, and when given the opportunity, they love to play the game. I have two girls at home – ten and eight – and all they want to do is play flag football. They want to throw the football, catch the football, compete and chase. It’s such a great game, and it should be brought to everybody. Having women in football is wonderful.” 

– Matt Rhule, University of Nebraska 

“I think you’re going to continue seeing growth in women playing flag football. I think that’s an opportunity for our game, and I think there’s passion. The women who are fans at Penn State are as passionate if not more passionate than the men. I think some of them, if they had these opportunities as kids growing up, would’ve taken advantage of them. I’m all about it. I’m all for it. I think it’s really positive for our country. I think it’s really positive for the game of football.” 

– James Franklin, Penn State University 

“I think it’s a national trend. The University of Iowa has the first Division I women’s wrestling team. In our state, women’s wrestling has really taken off. A lot of high schools are participating. I think more and more people want to be involved in sports, and it’s natural that it spills into football as well.” 

– Kirk Ferentz, University of Iowa 

“I love when I hear that women are playing football. I have two daughters of my own, and one of them might play football. She’ll be good enough to do that, and she's a pretty tough little girl. Football should be a sport where everybody can play it at all different levels and with all different contact levels ... Everybody should be able to enjoy the game of football that, I think, is America’s sport.” 

– P.J. Fleck, University of Minnesota 

“Anytime you can expand our game, it’s good for the game. To provide an arena for everybody interested in the sport to play is awesome, and our game needs to continue to do that.” 

– Ryan Walters, Purdue University