Evolution, History and Direction
Our predecessor organization, The United States Touch and Flag Football Association (USTFFA) was founded in 1976, over a quarter of a century ago. Its original purpose was to help standardize the sport of touch and flag football. It hoped to do this by organizing independent state flag football associations as Members, which are comprised of independent flag football leagues. The concept was each state would hold an annual championship tournament consisting of the top teams from the leagues in their respective state. The top teams from each state would then compete for a true national championship.
Our founders at that time were involved with the 9-man, ineligible, full-contact version of both touch and flag. Thus, it became the only supported version. Never more than 7 or 8 states at any one time participated in the USTFFA annual tournaments. By 1980, the touch “division” had dwindled down to just two states sending entries and the association could no longer justify supporting that program. Since, The National Touch Football League (NTFL), which also supported flag, was operating successfully in St. Louis , our former touch “partners” had a viable place to go and compete. We dropped the word “Touch” from the official name of our organization in 1981.
Although founded primarily by 9-man states, at least one of the founding states and several of the newer Members had leagues that were 7-man, both eligible and ineligible, with and without downfield blocking. These versions are a bit more recreational in nature and former tackle football experience is not necessary to play. As most folks know, the 9-man, ineligible, full-contact version of our sport is a pretty physical game. It is very close to tackle except without the equipment and is more geared to the former high school, college, or even pro football player. As this is the most rugged version of flag, it likely will never appeal to the “masses”, but rather to a smaller population of individuals. It can be compared favorably to semi-pro football or the sport of rugby, both of which appeal to select individuals and not to everyone.
With this in mind, the 7-man states who had been playing 9-man in the national tournaments, lobbied that their own division be created on a trial basis. With the inclusion of a Woman’s division (being played in four states), the 7-man division (eligible) with no down - field blocking quickly dominated in the number of teams participating. This was no great surprise and helped to prove the point that the rougher a game is, the fewer participants it will attract.
After two years of operating the 7-man, 7-woman, and 9-man divisions, the 9-man division left in favor of forming their own association. That organization became known as the United States Flag Football League (USFFL), which for a number of years, conducted annual 9-man championship events, at Princeton , NJ .
Around that time, several of the Member states began converting their respective programs to 8-man, eligible. The leagues in those states, were arguing that since most teams only played once a week – going from 7 to 8 would allow two more players (12.5%) more on every play and that with 8 team members it facilitated a bit more creativity in play calling. Before long the national organization agreed to support that version only.
Shortly, thereafter, The National Woman’s Flag Football League (NWFFL) was founded in Key West , FL. Our Woman’s division eventually decided to join this new (for women only) organization. They began participating in annual championships in Key West , during the months of February.
The USFFA early on, realized the difficulty it would face if it were to try to be all things to all people. Further, our state association concept could not work if states attempted to support many versions of the sport. Although we have gone through several versions of flag since our inception, we have always remained constant in our supporting just one of them at a time except for the brief period when we supported both 7 and 9-man.
The USFFA has taken the position that there is no right or wrong way to play flag – only many ways. There are a number of national organizations that support the many different versions of this sport – mostly via qualifying tournaments similar to softball. There will probably always be a place for the 4, 5, 6, 7, 9-man eligible and ineligible; full contact, line contact only and non-contact; summer, fall, winter & spring teams to play and earn national championship trophies.
The USFFA remains focused on only one version of flag football (8-man, eligible, no down-field blocking), and we are continuing to build our National Championship program upon that single version. We feel that of all the versions currently being played, this one has the greatest chance for standardization – if there is every to be any. This version permits a reasonable number of players to be on the field at one time; the physical aspect of full-line contact, but with none down-field; a kicking game, but with no rush; and everyone eligible allowing all players to score points.
We expect to continue to create and welcome state associations that are interested in standardizing and supporting that version.
( 10/03/03 – RCJ)