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Graceland Welcomes Women’s Flag Football on Campus

By: Lexi Zabel

Starting in the spring of 2024, Graceland University is welcoming an addition to their athletic squad. This sport is one that the Innovation Committee, including members from many departments such as Athletics, Academics, Residents Life, and Student Life, created the proposal for because of the minimal expense and numerous opportunities it can provide for students. According to Brady McKillip, the Athletic Director, adding a Women’s Flag Football “is an opportunity to expand our women's athletic programs.” He also mentions that there are currently twenty-one teams in the NAIA that offer Women’s Flag Football, so our campus is on the groundbreaking front by having this sport at our school. Developing a team for flag football will hopefully inspire other colleges around us to do the same, so more people can watch and enjoy this unique sport.

After figuring out all the details and financials for the new team, Graceland was able to find just the right guy to coach these women and be someone who they can trust and depend on, on and off the field. Greg Criswell, the future coach, is a 1986 graduate of Graceland whose brother played ten years of professional football with the Kansas City Chiefs and the New York Jets. While Criswell attended Graceland, he played football and baseball. Since then, he has retired from the position of being a fourteen-year principal at Winterset High School. Along with this, he has had over thirty years of coaching experience, including girls' basketball, baseball, football, and recently, he was the head girls' basketball coach at Urbandale High School. While going through the process of finding a coach, McKillip’s wife, a friend of Criswell, reached out to Criswell to see if he knew of anyone who would be interested in the job. To McKillip and his wife’s pleasant surprise, Criswell mentioned how he always wanted to coach college and as a result, volunteered himself for the job. After going through the interview process, the university is pleased to have Criswell as a coach, and he is “most excited to be back at Graceland University, and to coach a new women’s sport.”

As mentioned, the first season won’t begin until next spring, but Criswell is busy recruiting “student athletes who can come in next season and immediately make a positive impact on the field, in the classroom, and on campus.” According to McKillip, Criswell seems like the perfect fit because he has already done a lot of research on flag football, and he has connected with high schools that offer flag football, which could potentially assist him in the recruiting process. Along with this, Criswell is heading to Florida at the end of the month for a big recruiting trip that will allow him to see fifteen teams with many talented players. This opportunity, along with watching videos and talking to other coaches will hopefully make the recruiting process easy and successful for Criswell and those helping him. Overall, Graceland looks forward to having another team to cheer for and Criswell believes “the biggest impact will be that more women student athletes will have more opportunities to be involved and participate on an athletic team!”

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