Deep in the heart of Round Rock, Texas, the 2019 NIRSA National Flag Football Championships brought together the best of the best for an unforgettable experience from January 3–5, 2020. There’s nothing quite as exciting as taking on the challenge of a national championship for the first time, and our four host partners rose to the occasion in an incredible way. They put together a truly fantastic event—which is no small feat. The NIRSA Championship Series is grateful for the countless hours that were spent making the tournament a success. Our gratitude goes out to the staff and students at St. Edward’s University Campus Recreation, Southwestern University Intramural and Recreational Activities, The University of Texas at Austin Recreational Sports, and our official host partner, the City of Round Rock. Additional thanks go to the Round Rock Multipurpose Complex for their hard work and support in making this event possible!
Round Rock provided plenty of sunshine and warmth for our competition this year. We could not have asked for better football weather. A total of 44 teams made up of 576 participants in our four divisions—13 CoRec, 18 Men’s, seven Women’s, and six Open Non-Collegiate—played in the tournament; the Championship Series was able to offer 418 male participants and 158 female participants a positive extramural experience. We plan to continue our growth in Texas—building off what we learned this year—as Round Rock acts as the host site for future tournaments.
High hopes, high energies, electrifying action
Teams traveled from 19 states and Mexico to participate in their divisional championships. We were eager to see some familiar faces from previous national championships held in Pensacola and New Orleans, as well as to welcome new teams to this year’s nationals. Teams began checking in at the Round Rock Multipurpose Complex on Thursday afternoon before the tournament began, taking advantage of the beautifully manicured, vacant fields for a bit of extra practice before the captain’s meeting.
Pool play began early Friday morning with a ferocity that showed that no team had traveled to Round Rock with the intention of being the first to lose. With every team advancing to bracket play after Friday’s pool play games, we saw some of the best matchups in tournament history. Each team lined up on the field of battle to prove they were worthy of that championship title, going all-in on offense and defense. In every possible way, these teams showed that at the core of the tournament is a love of the game.
As Saturday bracket play commenced, teams jockeyed for wins while demonstrating their offensive and defensive skills. No team wanted to be the first defeated in the single elimination playoffs. Teams battled to advance to the championship on Sunday—some teams reclaimed their crowns while others emerged as victors for the first time. Dixie State University emerged as the new winner of the CoRec Division. The Women’s Division saw the University of Florida repeat as the winner for the third year running. Georgia College, the 2018 runner up, came back and claimed victory for the Men’s Division. For full results, including All-Tournament teams, All-American officials, photos, and archived webcasts of the championship games, check out the NIRSA Play blog.
The @NIRSAChamp Twitter and Instagram accounts captured the action with updates, videos, and pictures from the tournament. Hundreds of tweets and clips told a story of amazing catches, defensive prowess, and energetic play. The championship games were webcast live—with commentary by NIRSA Championship staff members Dave Peters of Florida State University and Scott Flickinger from Cornell University—allowing supporters to watch the exciting championship games from far and away.
Coach Rob McNair, long-time coach for North Carolina A&T State University’s club team, says, “We always try to play our best, every time, no matter who we’re playing against. We always give it our all. We went to three regionals, and won all three to be here and get the best play possible.”
For a lot of participants, the opportunity to interact with other schools and compete was the highlight of their tournament experience. Scott Hastings, captain of the Central Washington University 5th Years, commented on his team’s first appearance at the tournament: “This was a chance to do something we’ve never done before in a place we’ve never been before. We met teams from schools we’d never heard of, and who never heard of us, which was so cool and unexpected. It was a high level of competition like we’ve never seen.”
Scott had won his campus championship for five quarters straight but he’d never had an opportunity to participate in a regional or national tournament. He brought a squad he’d only played with for one season to join him in the experience. The experience was insightful, and Scott shares, “Other teams can do this if they prepare, watch film on the previous championships, do their best, and go with an open mind.”
When Scott’s team left Ellensburg, Washington, it was snowing and 17°F. It was a nice change to be in sunny, 70°F Round Rock for most of the weekend. “Even after we lost, it was a fun experience to explore downtown Round Rock and Austin and to come back and watch the championship games on Sunday and see who made it all the way,” says Scott.
One of the greatest gifts you can give is your time—cheers to our volunteers and officials
The love of the game isn’t just for the players. Our volunteer staff, officials, and spectators travelled from across the country for the very same reason. Wyatt Lee of Valdosta State University attended this year’s tournament to receive his 2019 Hall of Fame honors in the officials’ category. As he so aptly put it, “I’m very passionate about this game, and I get to hang out with my friends. It gives me a sense of purpose. Flag football is the reason I’m in campus rec.”
This year marked Wyatt’s thirtieth regional flag football tournament as a member of staff, after years of involvement as a student official. When asked why he keeps coming back, he said, “It’s amazing to see how the clinician-officials relationship developed from regionals to nationals. I love that I get to be a part of that and build those relationships with those students.”
Official Bailey James from the University of Mississippi talked about his experience at the tournament and the impact it’s had on his college experience: “Officiating in this tournament was an absolutely surreal moment to me. From the moment I got to Round Rock until I got back to Oxford, it’s like I was in a constant state of flow. Officiating with other such high caliber officials and receiving the level of feedback that I did was truly an amazing experience. I hope to earn my way back to the tournament next year, and I will most definitely keep officiating and continue into the field.”
CJ Rhan, a graduate student and official from Cornell University, agreed with Bailey, sharing, “I’d say it was my most rewarding officiating experience so far. Having the emphasis of the weekend focused on being a good crew mate and putting people first created a great environment and made officiating with such talented officials even better!”
“Being able to attend this tournament will be one of the highlights of my NIRSA career for many years to come. Whether it was meeting with a clinician after a game to get a tip or trick to utilize on the field, asking for advice on advancing in the high school and college football field, or asking for advice during the search for graduate assistantships, every interaction that I had with a clinician was a memorable one,” shared Alex Bruman, a senior official at Rowan University. “Every official was amazing and only cared about making sure that the crew succeeded, which really emphasized the people-first mentality of the weekend. The memories that I made during the tournament will last a long time, and the new friendships will last forever.”
Kurt Klier of the University of Maryland served his final year as Director of Officials at this tournament. Reflecting on his 22 years of service with the Officials Committee, he shared, “If it was not for this tournament, I probably would not be in this profession.”
He appreciates how the tournament is all about the NIRSA family—how it’s essentially an annual reunion—but what most brought him back to the National Flag Football Championship year after year was “the development of students. The impact that we have.” Kurt says, “I want to share what I’ve learned and pass it on. When I see these younger officials coming back as professionals to pay it forward, it proves to me that what NIRSA is doing is the right thing.”
Wyatt Lee echoed that sentiment. “Just being able to learn from all those people that evaluated us, that were clinicians at these regional and national tournaments, we could help bring on the next generation of flag football officials. This is just the beginning.”
Thanks to supportive institutions
This tournament could not have happened without the contributions of NIRSA members who took advantage of Institutional Registrations. We would like to thank the following institutions:
University of Southern Mississippi
Georgia Southern University
University of Maryland-College Park
- For more information, please contact NIRSA National Sport Programs Coordinator Nicole Jackson.