About Our Sport
What is Sprint Football
Simply put, sprint football is a varsity football program for the average-size American male. The sport features the same rules as regular college football, with one exception: every player must weigh 172 pounds or less. Execution is the focus of the sport, rather than the weight room. Players are fundamentally sound and provide fans with an exciting brand of textbook football. There are currently six teams playing in the CSFL. Army, Cornell, Mansfield, Navy, Pennsylvania and Princeton play a full schedule of league and non-league games during the fall season.
Sprint football was created to provide the average-size student-athlete the opportunity to play football. Every student on campus is offered a legitimate tryout, regardless of their previous background. The sport serves a deserving group of students that would otherwise not have the opportunity to compete on the collegiate level.
Sprint football had a humble beginning, as Harvard and Yale fielded teams to provide additional entertainment before the varsity Harvard-Yale game. Penn popularized the sport, as its president coined the term “Football for All,” and encouraged participation in this unique game. Eight lightweight teams competed in 1931, but only two of these remain in existence today — Princeton and Penn. The Eastern Lightweight Football League (ELFL) was launched in 1934 with Yale, Penn, Rutgers, Lafayette and Princeton competing.
Sprint Football at Cornell
Playing under Alfred Wolf, Cornell recorded a 3-2 record in 1937, its first season of league competition. Wolf coached for the first five seasons of the lightweights, and Bob Grant took over in 1942 before World War II caused the lightweights to take a three-year break. In 1946, Bob Cullen revived the lightweight program and coached the team for one season. No one knew then how popular both the lightweight program, and its 1946 coach, would become.
From 1947-57, Cornell had eight different coaches and not much of a stab at the league title as Navy dominated the conference.
In 1958, Cullen returned to the helm and became one of the greatest contributors to the sport of lightweight football. His teams were outstanding. Between 1958 and 1975 the Big Red recorded 14 second or third-place finishes in the league, and in 1975 won its first ELFL title with a 5-1 record that tied Princeton for a share of the top spot. Bob’s achievements were recognized in 1984 when he was inducted into the Cornell Athletic Hall of Fame.
Bob’s son, Terry, served as the team’s offensive coordinator from 1965 until the 1970s when he joined his father at the helm as co-head coach of the team. Terry continues to serve as head coach of the team today, and when the position was endowed in 2001, Terry officially became the first Terry Cullen Head Coach of Sprint Football.
Cornell won the league championship outright in 1978 (going 5-0 overall), 1982 (7-0 overall and 5-0 league record) and repeated the feat in 2006 (6-0 overall and 4-0 league record). In both 1984 and 1986 the team shared a three-way tie for the title with Army and Navy.
In 1984 Bob was again honored when the ELFL championship trophy was named the Robert L. Cullen Trophy after the coach who did so much for the sport.
The past 70 seasons have held a lot of memories for the Cullens and their players, but perhaps no memory is as unique as the Cornell lightweight’s 1976 Christmas trip to Japan. The American Football Association of Japan had imported several U.S. pro and college teams to Japan for exhibition games to build support for the sport. However, when playing against the Japanese All-Stars, the U.S. squads had advantages in size, experience and coaching. During a visit to Japan for his son Tom’s wedding, Coach Cullen suggested that the Japanese invite a lightweight team to compete to ensure a close game that would be a beneficial publicity event. After much correspondence and the efforts of Cornell alumni in Japan, the Big Red lightweight football squad received an invitation to compete in the Japanese Silk Bowl. Treated to gala receptions and a whirlwind tour of the country, 57 Cornell players not only had an amazing cultural experience that covered a span of 15 days, but recorded an amicable 1-1 record against the Japanese All-Stars with a 9-0 win on Christmas Day in Tokyo, and a 17-16 loss one week later in Nagoya.
The Cornell sprint football team, under excellent guidance from all its coaches, but especially the Cullens, has served a need in the Cornell athletic community for over 65 years now, and appears to be ready to continue well into the new century.