CWA approves sand volleyball as emerging sport for women


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By Greg Johnson
The NCAA News

PHILADELPHIA - The Committee on Women's Athletics has voted to recommend that a governance entity from each of the divisions sponsor legislation to add sand volleyball to the emerging sports for women list.

The committee also is asking the Division III Management and Presidents Councils to sponsor legislation for the 2009 NCAA Convention to add equestrian to the emerging sports list. Divisions I and II added the sport to the list in 1999.

Emerging sports are intended to provide additional athletics opportunities to female student-athletes. It takes 40 institutions to sponsor the sport before it can become an NCAA championship.

Institutions are allowed to use emerging sports to help meet the NCAA minimum sports-sponsorship requirements and also to meet the NCAA's minimum financial aid awards.

The NCAA Gender-Equity Task force compiled the original list of emerging sports for women in 1994. Archery, badminton, bowling, rowing, ice hockey, squash, synchronized swimming, team handball and water polo were the original sports on the list. Since then, bowling, rowing, ice hockey and water polo have become NCAA championships.

The Committee on Women's Athletics gave its recommendation to move forward with sand volleyball after hearing a presentation by American Volleyball Coaches Association Executive Director Kathy DeBoer and Delaware volleyball coach Bonnie Kenny. The conversation centered on the growth and popularity of the sport.

According to a 2007 report by the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association, more than 200,000 females participate in the sport, including 32,654 females under the age of 18 in the U.S. who are frequent participants. DeBoer and Kenny said sand volleyball is not currently a high school sport, but the number of girls playing only sand volleyball with frequency in high schools is more than the other emerging sports.

The same research revealed that sand volleyball had increased by 35 percent among core participants since 2006. This compared with only a 2.3 percent increase in the indoor court game.

The committee's discussion centered on how the sport would add participation opportunities for women at the NCAA level and would the membership enough time to develop appropriate rules for the sport if the proposal is adopted.

In recent years, CBS College Sports Network and NCAA member conferences, including the Southeastern Conference, have conducted sand volleyball tournaments for more than 40 institutions.

 "Initially, everybody is acknowledging that early on the process there will likely be a lot of crossover from indoor players playing sand volleyball," said CWA Chair Geri Knortz. "But additional opportunities will come as the sport grows."

In DeBoer and Kenny's proposal, sand volleyball teams would consist of five doubles teams that would be ranked No. 1 through No. 5 - much like singles and doubles teams in intercollegiate tennis. They would play against the similarly ranked pair from the opposing school. The team winning at least three matches would win the dual competition.

Twelve NCAA presidents and athletics directors sent the committee commitment letters. Letters of endorsement were received from the U.S. Olympic Committee, USA Volleyball and several NCAA conference offices.

At the committee's request, stakeholders in squash sent Committee on Women's Athletics an action-plan to increase growth in that sport. Currently, 28 institutions sponsor varsity women's squash. Stanford recently added the sport, and Columbia is scheduled to add it, too.

The committee plans to set parameters for growth in the sport by its next meeting October 9-11 in Atlanta.

As for equestrian, the sport's varsity sponsorship would have exceeded 40 - the number needed to become a championship - several times over the past decade if Division III institutions classified it as an emerging sport. In 2006-07, 14 Division III institutions sponsored equestrian as a varsity sport.

If it becomes a Division III NCAA-sanctioned sport, several issues would have to be resolved, such as determining a playing and practice season.

In another action, the Committee on Women's Athletics recommended to remove archery, badminton, team handball and synchronized swimming from the emerging sports list for lack of growth. Each of the three division governance structures will decide whether to remove the sports effective for the 2009-10 academic year.

Institutions can still sponsor each sport as varsity and include participants in their campus Title IX analyses. Additionally, any of these sports can request emerging sports status in the future.

Removal from the list means that the sport is not in line to become an NCAA championship and that it cannot be one of the sports used to reach minimum sports-sponsorship requirements.

According to policy developed by the Committee on Women's Athletics at this meeting, stakeholders in these sports can re-apply to be put on the emerging sports for women list after a 12-month wait. They also must produce 15 letters of commitment to the sport that must be signed by an NCAA institution's president and athletics director.

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