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100 years, but where are the women?


As we celebrate 100 years of UTEP football we take the time to recognize all of the men who have played in orange and blue over the program’s history. Not once throughout this celebration will you hear about women.

Football is a male-driven sport with no visible traces of women—even all of the marketing involved for the games is geared toward men. It’s important to highlight the women who have defied stereotypes and joined men on the field and on the sidelines.

There are plenty of women who have performed great feats in football, yet they’re unheard of. Sports media targets a specific audience and doesn’t do a good job at making these announcements as widely public as they do when male players achieve smaller feats.

High school is where we’ve seen more females playing on football teams than on any other level.

Last year there were 1,964 girls playing football, the second-highest mark ever recorded and more than double the number of participants from seven years ago.

This is according to data from the National Federation of State High School Associations, which takes data from U.S. high schools with an 11-player football team.

This year, Del Valle High School in El Paso brought on Love Tovar as the team’s placekicker. This isn’t even the first female in El Paso to play on a team. In recent years, other El Paso high school football teams have also added female kickers to their roster with Bailey Dickerson (El Paso High) and Brandy Rosales (Socorro).

Across the country, girls in high school football are breaking records left and right.

Savana Melton has been a varsity kicker for her 7A school in North Little Rock, Arkansas, her sophomore through senior years. In that time, she stacked accolades in her division most guys in football would dream of having. She was the second-highest scorer in 2015 (56 points) and 2016 (89 points). 

Melton is also the first girl to play and score in a 7A state championship game, first female to be selected to All Arkansas Preps and Arkansas Varsity football teams and the first female to play and score in a state championship game (2016). Melton has accomplished all of this before even graduating high school. With her graduation date set in 2018, Melton still has one more high school football season to go and there’s no doubt she’ll do great.

Another player to note is Brooke Liebsch. She became her school’s first female quarterback in 2015. She went on to become the first female to make it to the U.S. National Development Games in Arlington, Texas, last year. This year, at only 16 years old, she registered with the Women’s Football Alliance and picked up the title of rookie starting quarterback for the KC Titans women’s team. In her first year playing she managed to take her team to the first round of the playoffs, not something many can say.

College football is more competitive than high school football, but that doesn’t mean its lacked female involvement. 

This year we’ve seen Rebecca Longo, the first woman to ever win a football scholarship to an NCAA school at the Division II level, begin her season as placekicker for Adams State University. Longo was also the first woman to sign a letter of intent for college football.

One of the most notable women in college football is Katie Hnida. She has one of the lengthiest resumes for college football. She’s achieved the records of being the second woman to dress for a Division I-A game, and the first for a bowl game (1999 w/ University of Colorado-Boulder) and first woman to score in an NCAA Division I-A game, college football’s highest level. Hnida accomplished this last feat as the placekicker for University of New Mexico in 2003, and she also went on to have a semi-professional career as the first woman to play indoor football in a non-women’s league.

Another first to play and score in an NCAA football game was Ashley Martin. She however, played for a Division I school. Martin was the placekicker for Jacksonville State University in 2001. She is also one of only three female players to score in any college football game.

In 2014, Shelby Osborne became the first female to play a non-kicking position at a four-year college. She was cornerback at an NAIA school, Campbellsville University.

The list doesn’t end there. These women have garnered very successful collegiate careers, but we have yet to see a significant change in gender equality in the sport.

There is no rule in the NFL that suggests that women can’t try out for the NFL. The official rule states: All human beings are eligible, as long as they are three years out of high school and have a usable football skill set. Even with its “inclusion” rule, women have never played football professionally.

This does not, however, mean that there is no other place for women in the NFL. In fact, there are a handful of female coaches in the NFL.

Kathryn Smith made history back in 2015 as the first full-time female coach in the league. In 2015 she became the first female to have a full-time position in NFL history. Kathryn Smith was named the Bills’ quality control-special teams coach.

Before her, Jen Welter was the first-ever female assistant coach to be brought on to the league. Welter was the first woman in NFL history to coach. She coached during the training camp as assistant coach for the Arizona Cardinals as well as during the 2015 preseason.

Colette Smith was hired under the Jets’ first female coach to work with defensive backs. She worked as a coach during training camp this summer, working with first-rounder Jamal Adams, defensive back Morris Claireborne, Calvin Pryor, before he was traded to the Browns, and rookie Marcus Maye.

Earlier this month, the 49ers also added a female coach for the regular season, Katie Sowers. Sowers is the second full-time assistant coach in the NFL, and the first coach to be openly gay. A true pioneer for not just women, but for anyone who identifies as LGBTQ. She is set to be with the 49ers throughout the entire 2017 season as offensive assistant working with wide receivers.

Previous to working with the 49ers, she was a scouting intern with the Falcons, where she met, now 49ers head coach, Kyle Shanahan.

All of these women have fought to be at the forefront of a predominantly male sport and deserve just as much credit, if not more. I hope that by the time we celebrate another century of UTEP football we will have evolved and included women on the field.

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About the Contributor
Leslie Sarinana
Leslie Sarinana, Copy Editor
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100 years, but where are the women?