HELENA — Girls in Montana might soon have the opportunity to play flag football as part of a regulated pilot program through the Montana High School Association.
The MHSA executive board announced Thursday that it has approved the possibility of adding the sport as a regulated activity, meaning it will follow a rules-and-regulations structure similar to cheerleading. The pilot program would be funded by the Atlanta Falcons and Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation for the first two years.
“It’s an NFL priority right now. One of the top priorities in the NFL is to be able to support flag football for girls throughout the country in state associations,” said MHSA executive director Mark Beckman.
“The expansion of girls flag football is essential to the growth of the game and preservation of the values it has contributed to society for decades,” NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said in a media release earlier this year. “Girls flag demonstrates that football is for all, and the greater the participation, the stronger the game, and the more young women can build the transferrable skills football provides for achieving success in life.”
According to the NFL’s release, only six states currently sanction high school girls flag football: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and New York.
Montana isn’t yet on a trajectory to join those states in sanctioning high school girls flag football, but implementing the regulated pilot program is a first step in that direction. Beckman said the board has received interest from some Montana high schools, specifically Class AA schools, but the board will soon distribute a survey to more accurately and officially gauge statewide interest.
If there’s enough interest, girls could be representing their schools on flag football fields as early as this fall as part of the pilot program.
“We’ll sort of look at this, evaluate it, and then if the board sees the interest and schools are saying, ‘Yeah, this is a pretty good thing, and things went well,’ then they will put it up for a vote during the annual meeting of next year, just like we will with baseball,” Beckman said, referencing the committee that is now being formed to determine the feasibility of high school baseball.
“The only thing is, we’re getting the information for baseball from a committee,” Beckman added, “and this case we would be getting it from an actual season if enough schools are interested.”
The pilot program is made possible by the Falcons, who are owned by Arthur Blank. Blank and his family own the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch in Paradise Valley, and the Treasure State holds a special place in Blank’s heart.
He is a well-known philanthropist, giving his time, resources and money to causes across the country. Montana has benefited from Blank’s generosity, as he’s donated to wildfire relief efforts and coronavirus aid, among others, in the state. He also brings the Falcons to Montana each summer to hold youth camps.
“With this case where we have the Falcons willing to fund the entire first year, that was a thing for the board to say, ‘Well, let’s regulate it so we can offer it. It’s going to be paid for, we can get some really good data and some good input and good feedback,’” Beckman said.