September 17 was a big night for Calumet College of St. Joseph (CCSJ). For the first time in school history, CCSJ played a college football game under the Saturday night lights. The night marked the inaugural season of CCSJ’s Sprint Football team, and the completion of building a college football program from the ground up.
Sprint Football is the same as college football but with one major difference, there is a 178 pound weight limit on the players.
“It’s just like Saturday college gameday FBS football,” explained CCSJ Director of Athletics Andy Marks. “All of the rules are the same except for one thing, every player has to weigh under 178 pounds. So, they weigh in on Thursday mornings and if they’re under 178 they’re playing on Saturday.”
Building a college football program from nothing is no easy task. Hiring coaches and recruiting athletes is a major part of getting a team on the field.
“You need to hire the right people,” said Johnny Craig, Senior Vice President for Enrollment, Marketing, and Athletics. “Coach Novak’s been a great leader and he has an amazing staff of assistant coaches. Then you empower them to do what they need to do. Then you need to find the right student-athletes. We want to find students that are a good fit for Calumet College, but also we want Calumet College to be a good fit for them.”
Tonight’s game was the culmination of a year of preparation and planning.
“We first announced the league in the summer of 2021,” said Dr. Amy McCormack President of CCSJ. “It was approved at our June board meetings, but our first conversation was in January of 21. Then in August, we hired our coach.”
Dr. McCormack is very proud of the hard work that went into starting Lake County’s only college football team, and the Midwest Sprint Football League.
“There were three women presidents that first talked about bringing Sprint Football to the Midwest,” said Dr. McCormack. “So, we started the Midwest Sprint Football League. It’s very exciting that it was three women at three Catholic colleges.”
CCSJ’s new football program, and the Midwest Sprint Football League as a whole, is a great way for the wealth of high school football talent in Northwest Indiana to play college football.
“First and foremost, we want to recruit the Region,” said Craig. “We thought it was very important to build the first college football team in Lake County with a bulk of student-athletes from the region.”
Before kickoff, the excitement could be felt in the crowd, students, and alumni gathered to watch NWI sports history. Craig went on to explain what that moment felt like for him.
“Goosebumps,” said Craig. “Walking onto the field and seeing the crimson and gray in the numbers we have, just fills you with pride.”
That same pride and excitement were shared by the team’s head coach Jason Novak.
“We are absolutely excited to represent our region and our state, and we’re looking for a great effort tonight,” said Novak.
To learn more about Sprint Football at Calumet College of St. Joseph check out their website: https://www.ccsjathletics.com/sports/sprintfbal/index.