Caldwell, N.J. – Fans packed the stands for Caldwell University’s first-ever sprint football game Sept. 16.
Students, alumni, faculty, staff and the community came out to root for the Cougars, led by Head Coach Daryle Weiss, as the team faced the University of Pennsylvania Quakers.
In Caldwell style, they rolled out the red carpet, literally, with the rug running from a pre-game reception area to the stadium. President Nancy Blattner, Ph.D., was thrilled to mark the historic day, thanking all those who made it happen—“donors, friends who wanted to rally around football … prospective students, and families.” She performed the ceremonial coin toss, winning it for the Cougars. University of Pennsylvania Head Football Coach Bill Wagner presented Dr. Blattner with a league welcome gift of a 2016 Collegiate Sprint Football League football and a brochure on the 85-year history of sprint football.
Senior Irielis Garcia said sprint football has created a buzz with the students. “Everyone is supporting one another. It’s wonderful.”
“Loved the game. Really good turnout,” said freshman Antonia Duzic.
“A good bonding experience,” said freshman Thomas Dono.
Senior Katherine Langari was pleased to see that many students painted their faces and decorated their T-shirts and that other student-athletes supported the new team. “A lot of the sports are coming together.”
Senior Megan Ilievski saw the game as “a really good opportunity to hang out with friends and support the school.”
Alumna Ethel Maria Conroy ’83 came to support her daughter, cheerleader Maria Conroy-Covin. “I’m so excited. I’m overwhelmed in a good way. I couldn’t find a parking spot.”
With the sun beaming down, everyone was feeling the late summer heat. “We felt united as we perspired. It was a beautiful spirit,” said alumna Angela Zaccardi ’58.
The marching band comes out of a strong Music Department. With music faculty member Rebecca Vega at the helm, the 18 musicians and six color guards are looking forward to being an active organization at the sprint home games and at other events like Homecoming and open houses.
Drum major Micaela Andrews attended band leadership camp during the past two summers with Professor Vega. She was thrilled to be able to perform with the marching band. “We worked so hard leading up to the game and when we finally took the field, it really felt like we were making history for Caldwell.”
It took the hard work and commitment of several people to make sprint football a reality for Caldwell. Senior Vice President Joseph Posillico, Ed.D. and Assistant Vice President of Athletics Mark Corino were on the front lines with Dr. Blattner in researching the league and its fit for Caldwell. “It’s an amazing feeling seeing a concept and a dream come to life out on the field and to have this type of excitement surrounding the event,” said Dr. Posillico.
Don O’Hagan, chief information officer at Caldwell, was on the university’s football committee, which was led by Dr. Blattner. “She brought us all together on the football planning committee. She took the minutes! This first game was the culmination of many people working outside their job descriptions to make this happen,” said O’Hagan. Dr. Blattner thanked O’Hagan for spearheading the historic Game Day program, which included advertisements and messages of congratulations from community leaders and local businesses. Board of Trustee member John Crawford worked in collaboration with Linda Maher and Graphic Imagery on creating the wonderful design of the program.
Sprint is a full-contact, intercollegiate varsity sport that has the same rules as regular college football. Players must weigh 178 pounds or less. The week leading up to the game was Spirit Week on campus. Events included a Friday night bonfire.
The Collegiate Sprint Football League has existed since before World War II and can boast of famous players like former President Jimmy Carter, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
The other members of the Collegiate Sprint Football League include Army West Point, Chestnut Hill College, Cornell University, Franklin Pierce University, Mansfield University, the U.S. Naval Academy, Post University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Caldwell’s upcoming home games are 1 p.m. Oct. 14 against Mansfield University and noon Oct. 28 against Franklin Pierce University.
For those who want to make road trips, the Caldwell Cougars are at Cornell University 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 22; Post University noon Saturday, Sept. 30, and the U.S. Naval Academy 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3.