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NCAA Emerging Sports for Women Process Guide

The Emerging Sports for Women program was created in 1994 based on a recommendation from the NCAA Gender Equity Task Force. An NCAA survey conducted in the early 1990s showed that 20 years after Title IX was passed, female students had about 30 percent of the athletic participation opportunities offered by NCAA institutions. In 2014-15, female students had 43 percent of athletic participation opportunities but made up 53 percent of the complete undergraduate population on NCAA campuses. The purpose of this program continues to be to grow meaningful intercollegiate sport participation opportunities for female student-athletes in sports that have the potential to reach the required number of varsity teams to be considered for NCAA championship status.

The Emerging Sports for Women program is monitored by the Committee on Women’s Athletics. The committee oversees the process by which sports can apply and has the ability to recommend sports to be added or removed from the Association’s Emerging Sports for Women list. The NCAA governance structure for each division determines which sports are Emerging Sports for Women as well as votes on a sport’s elevation to championship status. 

NCAA bylaws require that emerging sports must gain championship status (minimum of 40 varsity NCAA programs as reflected in the NCAA Sports Sponsorship Database) within 10 years or show steady progress toward that goal to remain on the list. Colleges and universities are allowed to use emerging sports to help meet the NCAA minimum sports sponsorship requirements for all divisions and minimum financial aid awards for Divisions I and II. If a school names an emerging sport on its NCAA sports sponsorship form, that sport must follow NCAA rules.

Since the Emerging Sports for Women program was established in 1994, five sports have earned full-fledged NCAA championship status: rowing in 1996, ice hockey in 2000, water polo in 2000, bowling in 2003 and beach volleyball in 2015. 

The Committee on Women’s Athletics created this process guide in 2016 to provide a resource for the leadership of sports striving to be an emerging sport and for those overseeing sports that are now on the list. 

Definitions

Definition of a sport: For purposes of reviewing proposals, a sport shall be defined as an institutional activity involving physical exertion with the purpose of competition versus other teams or individuals within a collegiate competition structure. Furthermore, a sport includes regularly scheduled team and/or individual, head-to-head competition (at least five) within the competitive season(s); and standardized rules with rating/scoring systems ratified by official regulatory agencies and governing bodies.

Definition of an emerging sport: An emerging sport is a sport that meets the above definition and is recognized by the NCAA (as approved by its divisional governance processes) that is intended to provide additional athletic opportunities to female student-athletes and demonstrates the NCAA’s commitment to gender equity among student-athletes.

Emerging Sports Legislation

The NCAA Divisions I, II and III manuals each contain bylaws that provide important information about the Emerging Sports for Women program, such as the 10-year time period to reach NCAA championship status and the minimum number of sponsoring institutions (40) needed to propose an NCAA championship.

Proposal Requirements

The leadership of a particular sport can submit a proposal to the Committee on Women’s Athletics for consideration for the sport to be added to the Association’s Emerging Sports for Women list if it meets these three requirements:

  • The sport meets the definition of a sport as stated in this guide.
  •  A minimum of 20 varsity teams and/or competitive club teams exist at NCAA membership institutions.
  • A minimum of 10 NCAA member schools that sponsor or intend to sponsor the sport at the varsity level must submit letters of commitment. 

The proposal shall be a maximum of 30 pages (excluding letters of commitment).

The letters of commitment must include the following: a sample budget, a proposed timeline for implementation of the emerging sport to varsity status in the athletics department, and the signatures of the president and the athletics director of the institution. Additionally, the letters must be dated within one year of the submission of the proposal.

Emerging sport proposals must include information on general competition rules, suggested NCAA regulations (e.g., playing and practice season, financial aid limits, coaching limits, recruiting) and format for the sport (e.g., expected facility requirements and costs, minimum and maximum competitions).

Other data and information that demonstrate support for the sport can be included in the emerging sport proposal, such as:

  • Demographics data of participants at the high school, collegiate and post-collegiate levels, including race and ethnicity and geographical region breakdown.  
  • Number of non-scholastic, high school and collegiate (varsity, recreation and/or intramural) teams/programs.
  • Recognition of sport by state high school associations.
  • U.S. Olympic Committee support (e.g., classified as an Olympic sport, national governing body support, grants).
  • An established national collegiate club/varsity championship or future championship plans – with hosting association/organization identified.
  • Association and organization support.
  • NCAA conference interest in sports sponsorship.
  • Coaches association support.
  • Professional sports support.

A sport that meets the proposal requirements is not guaranteed an emerging sport recommendation to each division’s governance structures from the Committee on Women’s Athletics. Sports that are not accepted into the Emerging Sports for Women program also have an option of reaching championship status through the NCAA governance process via bylaw 18.2.

The committee will evaluate each sport’s potential to grow to 40 varsity teams on NCAA campuses within the 10-year period.

In addition to the three previously stated requirements, the below list of items (but not limited to these items) may be considered by the committee during the review process.

  • Health and safety.
  • Growth potential at the high school and post-collegiate levels.
  • Economic viability of the proposal.
  • NCAA governance and legislative priorities. 
  • Other sports being evaluated for becoming Emerging Sports for Women. 
  • Level of support from the sport’s national governing body or a national association or organization.  

The Committee on Women’s Athletics and NCAA staff will provide feedback on all submitted proposals and may request further information.

Proposals Process

The process for submitting proposals follows the same timeline each year:

Aug. 1: Proposal must be submitted to the NCAA office of inclusion.

September/October: Committee on Women’s Athletics reviews proposal during fall committee meeting.

February: Committee extends invitation to sport representative(s) to present proposal at spring committee meeting. If invitation is not extended, proposal feedback will be provided.

April: Sport representative(s) present proposal at committee meeting.

June 15: Sport representative(s) are notified whether the committee will recommend legislation to propose the sport be added as an emerging sport through the appropriate governance and legislative processes for Divisions I, II and III.

Emerging Sports Governance Process

If the Committee on Women’s Athletics recommends a sport be added as an emerging sport, this recommendation will be sent to all three divisions. Each division will then follow its own governance and legislative processes to determine whether the sport should be added to the division’s Emerging Sports for Women list and legislative manual.

Emerging Sports and NCAA Rules

NCAA colleges and universities that sponsor an emerging sport at the varsity level must abide by all NCAA regulations, which include the areas of playing and practice seasons, financial aid, recruiting and student-athlete eligibility. NCAA rules violations that occur related to an emerging sport should be self-reported and addressed in the same manner as rules violations occurring in an institution’s other NCAA-sponsored sports.

Committee Monitoring and Support of Emerging Sports

The Committee on Women’s Athletics monitors the Emerging Sports for Women program, and the NCAA office of inclusion staff provides day-to-day support and guidance for emerging sports. The committee will review emerging sports and engage in dialogue with emerging sports leaders on a regular basis.

The committee will utilize the NCAA Sports Sponsorship Database (http://web1.ncaa.org/onlineDir/exec2/sponsorship) to accurately identify the number of NCAA institutions that sponsor each emerging sport.

The committee will review each emerging sport beginning with the end of the third year on the list and every two years thereafter. During each review, the committee will focus on an emerging sport’s readiness for recommendation to championship status. The committee and the NCAA office of inclusion anticipate frequent engagement with a sport’s leadership during a sport’s first three years on the emerging sport list and then will offer continued support through the established review process.

For emerging sports that were added before 2015, the committee will communicate with emerging sport leadership to establish a review process and expectations moving forward.

The Committee on Women’s Athletics may request particular information for an emerging sport’s review. Typically, emerging sports will be asked to provide the following information: number of varsity teams, including listing of sponsoring institutions per division; number of club teams; number of conferences that have added the emerging sport; number of varsity student-athletes at NCAA member institutions participating in the sport (including diversity data); a description of national or conference championship opportunities; and a summary of the sport’s leadership’s efforts to grow the sport.

Championship Sport Governance Process

Once an emerging sport reaches the minimum 40 institutions that sponsor the sport at the varsity level (as reflected in the NCAA Sports Sponsorship Database), the Committee on Women’s Athletics may recommend the emerging sport to become a championship sport to all three divisions through their respective governance/legislative processes.

Requirements for Remaining on the Emerging Sports for Women List

The Emerging Sports for Women program was developed for emerging sports to achieve NCAA championship status within 10 years. A sport can remain on the Emerging Sports for Women list after 10 years if the Committee on Women’s Athletics determines that the sport is growing and has promise for future expansion.

  • Examples of growth include (but are not limited to) the following: continual increase of varsity teams year over year, increased student-athlete opportunities and engagement with NCAA member schools to grow the sport.
  • Additional evidence of support for expansion includes fundraising and grant efforts by the national governing body or a national association/organization to grow the sport at the varsity intercollegiate level.

If the committee determines that the emerging sport is not making steady progress at or after the 10-year period, it can vote to recommend that the sport be removed from the Emerging Sports for Women list. The removal of an emerging sport will require the appropriate governance/legislation processes for each division.

A sport that is removed from the Emerging Sports for Women list and the applicable divisional manual(s) can seek reinstatement. At least 12 months must have passed since the effective date of removal from the list and manual(s). The criteria for the proposal remain the same, except that 15 letters of commitment (letters must be division specific if a divisional removal of an emerging sport takes place) must be included and the proposal should explain why the circumstances for support of the proposal have changed since the sport’s removal from the list.

Branding for Emerging Sports

The NCAA has developed licensing and marketing programs that make use of NCAA trademarks and championships marks. Such programs are closely monitored to ensure consistency with the purposes and objectives of the NCAA, its member schools and conferences and higher education.

Leaders of emerging sports must refrain from any direct or indirect usage of the NCAA's marks and logos unless they have obtained prior written consent from the NCAA. Requests for consent must be submitted to the NCAA via the NCAA Content Request Form. All such requests will be conditioned on approval with the NCAA Content License terms and conditions, a copy of which will be provided to you upon conditional approval. The NCAA may revoke its consent to the use of NCAA logos or trademarks at any time.

In limited circumstances, with prior written approval, the NCAA may make available to emerging sport leadership one or more of the following logos identifying the status of Emerging Sports for Women.

Logos for specific emerging sports as of 2016:

Upon receipt of NCAA written consent, examples of acceptable use of these logos may include placement on letterhead for correspondence to NCAA members about the emerging sport (along with the primary organization’s logo) and on a webpage maintained by the sport’s leadership to provide information to NCAA members.

Under no circumstances may emerging sport leadership use any NCAA logo or trademark in conjunction with an athletic competition in the emerging sport or in any manner that suggests a relationship between the NCAA and any corporate entity (including but not limited to any corporate sponsor of an emerging sport).

If a sport is removed as from the Emerging Sports for Women program, all use of NCAA logos or trademarks in connection with that sport must cease.

NCAA National Office Contacts

To submit an official proposal and to ask questions about the Emerging Sports for Women program, contact the NCAA office of inclusion staff:

Amy Wilson
awilson@ncaa.org

Richard Zhu
rzhu@ncaa.org

Jess Duff
jduff@ncaa.org

NCAA Legislation Related to Emerging Sports

Division I Legislation

20.02.4 Emerging Sports for Women. The following shall be considered emerging sports for women and countable for purposes of revenue distribution (for sports sponsorship and grants-in-aid): (Adopted: 1/11/94 effective 9/1/94)

(a) Team Sports: rugby; and (Revised: 4/15/97, 4/27/00 effective 8/1/00, 4/25/02, 1/17/09 effective 8/1/09, 4/30/09, 1/16/10 effective 8/1/11, 10/30/14 effective 8/1/15)

(b) Individual Sports: equestrian and triathlon. (Revised: 1/12/99 effective 8/1/99, 4/24/03 effective 8/1/03, 1/17/09 effective 8/1/09, 1/15/11 effective 8/1/11, 1/18/14 effective 8/1/14)

20.02.4.1 Additional Emerging Sports. The Board of Directors periodically shall identify future emerging sports for women that shall be countable sports for revenue distribution and minimum sports sponsorship criteria and shall establish procedures to determine minimum contests and maximum grants in those sports. (Adopted: 1/11/94 effective 9/1/94)

20.02.4.2 Removal of Emerging Sports. A sport shall no longer be considered an emerging sport once the sport has been established as a championship sport. Further, an emerging sport is limited to a 10-year time period to become a championship sport unless it can be demonstrated that steady growth has occurred during that time. (Adopted: 4/15/97)

18.2.4 Minimum Sponsorship for Championships.

18.2.4.1 Men’s Sports. A National Collegiate Championship or a division championship may be established in a men’s sport if at least 50 institutions sponsor the sport. (Adopted: 1/11/94 effective 8/1/94, Revised: 1/17/09)

18.2.4.2 Women’s Sports. A National Collegiate Championship or a division championship may be established in a women’s sport if at least 40 institutions sponsor the sport. (Adopted: 1/11/94 effective 8/1/94, Revised: 4/22/98 effective 8/1/98, 4/25/02 effective 8/1/02, 1/17/09)

Division II Legislation

20.03 Emerging Sports for Women.

20.03.1 Definition of Emerging Sports for Women. The following shall be considered emerging sports for women (see Bylaw 20.10.3.2): (Adopted: 1/11/94 effective 9/1/94, Revised: 1/13/03, 1/17/09 effective 8/1/10, 7/23/13)

(a) Team Sports: rugby; and (Revised: 1/13/98, 1/13/03 effective 8/1/03, 1/17/09 effective 8/1/09, 1/17/09 effective 8/1/10, 1/17/15 effective 8/1/15)

(b) Individual Sports: equestrian and triathlon. (Revised: 1/12/99, 1/13/03 effective 8/1/03, 1/17/09 effective 8/1/09, 1/15/11 effective 8/1/11, 1/18/14 effective 8/1/14)

20.03.1.1 Removal of Emerging Sports. A sport shall no longer be considered an emerging sport once the sport has been established as a championship sport. Further, an emerging sport is limited to a 10-year time period to become a championship sport unless it can be demonstrated that steady growth has occurred during that time. (Adopted: 1/13/98, Revised: 7/23/13)

18.2.4 Minimum Sponsorship for Championships.

18.2.4.1 Men’s Sports. A National Collegiate Championship or a division championship may be established in a men’s sport if at least 50 institutions sponsor the sport. (Adopted: 1/11/94 effective 8/1/94, Revised: 10/21/08)

18.2.4.2 Women’s Sports. A National Collegiate Championship or a division championship may be established in a women’s sport if at least 40 institutions sponsor the sport. (Adopted: 1/11/94 effective 8/1/94, Revised: 1/13/98 effective 8/1/98, 1/13/03, 10/21/08)

Division III Legislation

20.02.6 Emerging Sports for Women. The following shall be considered emerging sports for women: (Adopted: 1/11/94 effective 9/1/94)

(a) Team Sports. Rugby; and (Revised: 1/13/98, 1/13/03 effective 8/1/03, 1/17/09 effective 8/1/09)

(b) Individual Sports. Triathlon. (Revised: 1/12/99, 1/13/03 effective 8/1/03, 1/17/09 effective 8/1/09, 10/19/10 effective 8/1/11, 1/18/14 effective 8/1/14) 20.02.6.1 Removal of Emerging Sports. A sport shall no longer be considered an emerging sport once the sport has been established as a championship sport. Further, an emerging sport is limited to a 10-year time period to become a championship sport unless it can be demonstrated that steady growth has occurred during that time. (Adopted: 1/13/98)

18.2.4 Minimum Sponsorship for Championships.

18.2.4.1 Men’s Sports. A National Collegiate Championship or a division championship may be established in a men’s sport if at least 50 institutions sponsor the sport. (Adopted: 1/11/94 effective 8/1/94, Revised: 10/20/08)

18.2.4.2 Women’s Sports. A National Collegiate Championship or a division championship may be established in a women’s sport if at least 40 institutions sponsor the sport. (Adopted: 1/11/94 effective 8/1/94, Revised: 1/13/98 effective 8/1/98, 1/12/99, 1/13/03, 10/20/08) 18.2.4.2.1 Exception—Establishment of Championship. A championship in an emerging women’s team sport may be sponsored if at least 28 institutions sponsor the sport. (Adopted: 1/8/01 effective 8/1/01)