Long trip to the beach

A lot of work paved the way for the NCAA's 90th championship to take place

by Greg Johnson












Beach volleyball’s journey from an emerging sport for women to a National Collegiate Championship ended in spectacular fashion on the sun-splashed beaches of Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Television viewers watched three days of coverage on Turner’s networks that culminated with a kill by Kelly Claes that clinched the University of Southern California’s victory over Florida State University in the sport’s inaugural NCAA championship match.

What the viewers didn’t see, or most likely didn’t know, are the twists and turns in the road and the work behind the scenes that tilled the ground for the sport to grow into the NCAA’s 90th championship.

The 1,890 people in attendance Sunday were joined by several others who beamed with pride as they watched Southern California’s celebratory dog pile before the team sprinted to jump into the Gulf of Mexico, punctuating their day. Looking on were American Volleyball Coaches Association Executive Director Kathy DeBoer and Marilyn Moniz-Kaho'ohanohano, the NCAA Beach Volleyball Committee’s chair and associate athletics director at the University of Hawaii. Atlantic Sun Conference Commissioner Ted Gumbart was there, too, with a cast of others who turned a dream into reality.

They’re the few to understand the time, work and challenges that went into making this moment. It started in January 2008 with a notice to the Committee on Women’s Athletics about a formal proposal and letters of support from 10 institutions for beach volleyball to be added to the list of emerging sports for women. Four other sports had succeeded in becoming NCAA championships since the emerging sports process began in 1994 as a result of recommendations from the Gender-Equity Task Force to add competitive opportunities for females.  Nine sports were on the original list, from which rowing, women’s ice hockey, women’s water polo and bowling eventually became NCAA championships. A minimum of 40 schools needed to sponsor varsity teams before it could be considered to be a championship.

After doing research, DeBoer knew the process that had to be negotiated to lift beach volleyball from concept to championship long before last weekend ever felt like a possibility.

Here, a look at the months and years that led up the addition of the NCAA’s 90th championship:

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