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Sand volleyball could become newest NCAA championship

Division I Legislative Council approved a measure to establish a national collegiate championship in the sport

Sand volleyball moved a step closer to becoming an NCAA championship Monday when the Division I Legislative Council approved a measure to establish a national collegiate championship in the sport. The additional championship also must be approved by Division II and Division III.

At the 2015 NCAA Convention, both Divisions II and Division III will vote on similar legislation to establish the championship and a six-person committee to manage the event and sport overall.

Sand volleyball is the fastest-growing NCAA sport with 45 schools sponsoring it as of October 2014. NCAA rules require 40 sponsoring institutions to request an NCAA championship. Data shows that on average, 60 percent of participants at a sponsoring school participate only in sand volleyball, not in both sand and indoor volleyball.

Officials hope to establish a committee as soon as possible, with the target of spring 2016 for the first national championship in sand volleyball. The proposed timeframe leaves ample opportunity for site selection, selection criteria and championship development.

Division I and Division II members named sand volleyball an emerging sport for women in 2009. The NCAA emerging sports for women program was developed in the mid-1990s when the NCAA Gender Equity Task Force recommended identifying sports that have the potential to grow participation opportunities for women and are of interest to NCAA member schools and their communities. The ultimate goal is for the identified sports to become NCAA championship sports.

To achieve championship-sport status, emerging sports must gain at least 40 varsity NCAA programs for individual and team sports (except in Division III, where 28 varsity programs are required for team sports) within 10 years or show steady progress toward that goal. Institutions are allowed to use emerging sports to help meet minimum sports-sponsorship requirements. Division I and Division II schools can use emerging sports to meet minimum financial aid requirements as well. Women’s ice hockey, women’s bowling, women’s water polo and women’s rowing are examples of sports that successfully achieved championship status after starting out as emerging sports.

The council also approved a clerical change to the name of the sport, recommended by the Division I Championships/Sport Management Cabinet. If other divisions agree, the sport will be called “beach volleyball.” Changing the name would align the NCAA sport with the national and international versions.