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Coach Bill Wagner, now in his 49th season at the helm for Penn, has led the Quakers to a 2-0 start this year.

Credit: Nicole Fridling

Over the last few years, Penn sprint football has been one of Penn's more successful varsity programs. It also has one of the more — if not the most — unique recruiting processes.  

When making the leap from high school to college, a lot of smaller players may not be confident in their ability to keep up with the larger varsity team. However, these players at Penn can continue to play their heart out in the game they love.

“It is a very special thing that we are able to find kids who think they will never play football again and come to campus and find out about sprint football and can continue their athletic career,” sophomore offensive lineman Jack Schaible said.

The sport doesn't have a large following, and unless rising high school seniors have a previous connection with the team, they may not consider the possibility of playing football in college. Most players on the Penn team knew about it before coming to Penn and reached out to coach Bill Wagner before applying to the school.

It's often necessary for students to reach out to Wagner themselves, because according to Wagner, Penn does not allow him to travel to visit potential recruits at their high school. Wagner is further restricted by the Ivy League's rule against offering athletes scholarships.

Before coming to school, the students are allowed to come on campus to meet the coaches, watch a practice or game, and see the team on an official visit. Most of these athletes come into contact with the team either by word of mouth, the website Hudl, or other internet research on lightweight football. Once students get to school, some also have the chance to walk on to the team. 

“At freshman picnic we have students come and see that sprint is a thing and they can write their names. They all want to get off to a good start, and sprint offers amenities such as [career] mentoring programs, academic help, and a supportive community,” Wagner said.

The sprint team has the same opportunities as other varsity teams at Penn in terms of the academic help available to them and study hours. The mentoring program is helpful for the freshmen to acclimate to campus and feel more comfortable managing their time. Everyone looks out for one another to do the best they can to be a family and represent the school as student-athletes.

Penn's games are often on Fridays — which is when high school football games are generally played — so its coaches would likely not be able to see the high school teams play even if they were allowed. Players enjoy the Friday night games because they can still have the weekend to do their work and catch up on sleep for the upcoming week.

“I would love to see anyone who does not make another team, any athlete to come and try out for the team,” Wagner said.

Even with its limited recruiting resources, Penn continues to contend at the top of CSFL year in and year out.