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$1 million grant helps 6 SIAC schools start varsity men’s volleyball programs

Diversity and inclusion initiatives can come in all forms.

For the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, such efforts have come as a $1 million grant from USA Volleyball and the First Point Volleyball Foundation. The conference will use the funds to start men’s volleyball programs at Central State (Ohio), Benedict, Fort Valley State, Kentucky State, Morehouse and Paine in the 2020-21 academic year.

Each of the six historically black schools will receive $150,000 over three years, and the conference office will receive $100,000 to help conduct a league championship.

The genesis of this idea came in December 2018, when conference Commissioner Gregory Moore and First Point Volleyball Foundation CEO Wade Garard met at a Sports Business Journal conference in New York. First Point Volleyball Foundation is a nonprofit started by John Speraw, the men’s volleyball coach for both UCLA and the U.S. men’s national team.

“I was intrigued about the opportunity, particularly in light of the sport’s global popularity and the recruitment opportunities for our member schools,” Moore says. “So began a long process of conversations with member school presidents and athletic directors, which ultimately led to the decision of six member school presidents to support the incorporation of a new sport.”

USA Volleyball CEO Jamie Davis said his organization has made diversity and inclusion initiatives a priority. Being able to collaborate with the First Point Volleyball Foundation and the SIAC is an example of reaching that goal.

“We do as best we can to make initiatives like this a reality,” Davis says. “We believe this will have much bigger growth in the game in terms of inner-city development and will reach beyond these six schools.”

Starting varsity programs at the six schools can create opportunities for African American youths to see a path where they can play at the collegiate level. That, in turn, can lead to a positive impact at the youth development level of the sport.

“The SIAC has been a leader in the area of diversity and inclusion on a host of different fronts,” Moore says. “This opportunity, in conjunction with USA Volleyball and the First Point Volleyball Foundation, helps change the face of the game in the United States, which fell squarely in the wheelhouse of our league from an inclusion standpoint.”

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Champion magazine goes behind the headlines and beyond the scoreboards to celebrate the unique connection between Americans and college sports. Champion is published by the NCAA.