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Committee on Women’s Athletics supports Division III equestrian proposal

Adding equestrian as an emerging sport in Division III would increase chances of it being considered for championship status

The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics has voted in support of a proposal to add equestrian to the NCAA Emerging Sports for Women program in Division III.

Equestrian has been designated an emerging sport for women in Divisions I and II since 2002, but it has remained independent of the NCAA in Division III. The new legislative proposal, submitted by 21 Division III schools, seeks to change that, bringing Division III equestrian under the NCAA umbrella and, as a result, increasing the sport’s chances of being considered for NCAA championship status.

The Division III Management Council, Presidents Council and Student-Athlete Advisory Committee will take positions on the proposal this fall before it goes to a Division III membership vote at the 2020 NCAA Convention in January.

The Committee on Women’s Athletics oversees the Emerging Sports for Women program, which aims to increase participation opportunities for female athletes by providing a fast track for eligible women’s sports to become full-fledged NCAA championship events. Sports in the program must grow to 40 varsity teams to advance to the NCAA governance structure for championship consideration.

Nineteen schools in Division I and five in Division II now sponsor equestrian. In Division III, 16 schools have equestrian teams. If the Division III proposal passes, it would bring the total number of NCAA schools sponsoring the emerging sport to 40.

“By supporting equestrian as an emerging sport, we are demonstrating a commitment to providing participation and championship opportunities for women,” said Denise Udelhofen, chair of the Committee on Women’s Athletics and athletics director at Loras. “The sport of equestrian allows institutions to expand their diversity of offerings and be able to reach women who may not otherwise participate in athletics. With all three NCAA divisions supporting equestrian, it will hopefully also help the sport grow in numbers, which is a positive step in helping young women compete.”

Emerging sports typically have 10 years to reach the minimum threshold of sports sponsorship or risk being voted out of the program. In 2014, the Committee on Women’s Athletics recommended Divisions I and II remove equestrian as an emerging sport because of its failure to reach the 40-school threshold in a decade. Yet when the issue came to a vote, members ultimately decided to keep the sport in the program.

Since then, the National Collegiate Equestrian Association has continued efforts to advance the sport, including working with Division III administrators to pave a path forward for equestrian to become an emerging sport in Division III.

Equestrian is one of three NCAA emerging sports for women, along with rugby and triathlon. At the 2020 Convention, all three divisions will consider adding two additional sports to the program: women’s wrestling and acrobatics and tumbling. The Committee on Women’s Athletics reviewed applications for both sports and ultimately recommended they be added as emerging sports.

Since the emerging sports program was created in 1994, women’s ice hockey, women’s water polo, rowing, bowling and, most recently, women’s beach volleyball have gone on to become NCAA championship sports.