Wednesday, February 27, 2008

2/27/2008

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With five new collegiate beach events joining the third annual Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship, there is hope that the game will eventually make its way to the coveted list of "emerging sports" produced by the NCAA.

2/27/2008 -As excitement for the beach volleyball game continues to grow at the collegiate level all across the country, there is hope that the game will eventually make its way to the coveted list of "emerging sports" produced by the NCAA.

The definition of an emerging sport, according to the NCAA, is "a sport recognized by the NCAA that is intended to provide additional athletics opportunities to female student-athletes." The arbiter of the list is the Committee on Women's Athletics, a group formed to monitor the Association's compliance with Title IX.

The emerging sports list, first created in 1994, had nine initial entries. According to a July, 2007, article in the NCAA News, in the nearly 14 years since the list's inception, four of those sports have now earned full-fledged championship status for women: rowing, ice hockey, water polo and bowling.

Collegiate beach volleyball first appeared on the scene in 2006, with the inaugural Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship, played as part of an event called the Collegiate Nationals, the brainchild of College Sports Television, now the CBS College Sports Network. The Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship has also received much support from the AVP, the country's only pro beach volleyball tour.

As part of the Collegiate Nationals, beach volleyball is one of nearly 10 non-traditional sports, from Mountain Biking to Wakeboarding, that are featured as competitions between college teams. The Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship will return for its third round in 2008, bigger and better than ever. Joining 2007's champion, Nebraska, will be ACC champion Clemson, NCAA semi-finalist USC, Big 12 and Big Ten runners-up, Texas and Wisconsin, and a yet-to-be determined qualifier from the Big West Conference. Unlike the two years previous, this year's championship is a team event. Each school will bring eight players, or four teams, to the event. The four pairs will compete for overall team points as well as individual bracket awards.

But the Collegiate Nationals is not the only game in town this year, as five other sand tournaments have emerged, highlighted by three first-ever conference championships.

The Southeastern Conference Coaches Tournament will be the first-ever beach volleyball tournament held by a Division I conference, and will feature multiple teams from all 11 SEC volleyball schools. Those schools will travel to the University of Florida campus in Gainesville, where the indoor Gators have won 17-consecutive SEC championships.

"We see this as an opportunity to promote the SEC and women's volleyball in general," Florida head coach Mary Wise said. "With the successes of American beach teams at the Olympics and the pro beach tour, many casual sports fans are familiar with the game."

Two weeks preceding the SEC Coaches tournament, eight schools from the Sunshine State will do the first-ever honors for Division II teams, as part of the Sunshine State Collegiate Beach Volleyball Tournament. One of those schools is 2006 NCAA Division II National Champion and home team University of Tampa.

"The tournament is a nice change from the indoor game," said Chris Catanach, Tampa head coach. "I have not seen my players this excited about an event in a long time."

On the other side of the country, on April 19, the Big West Conference will send seven teams to tussle in the sand. On that same day, back in the state of Florida, five schools from the Sunshine State will comprise the Division I Florida Invitational beach tournament.

Though five of the six beach tournaments this spring are in states known for their sunshine and sandy coastline, the final event of the season will be the Rochester Indoor Beach Open, held in upstate New York. Eight schools spanning two New England-region conferences will take their sand and go inside, playing in the first-ever indoor collegiate beach tournament.

With the buzz being created by this spring's events, other schools are looking forward to joining the fray in 2009. Schools from the BIG EAST Conference have their date set for Tampa in '09, while other schools are still in the planning stages.

With 44 different schools from all parts of the country participating in a collegiate beach event this spring, the CWA will soon be asked to add beach volleyball to the emerging sports list. According to the aforementioned NCAA News article, once on the list, a sport has 10 years to gain championship status, or show "steady progress toward that goal to remain on the list." With the interest being generated thus far, collegiate beach is beginning to move in the right direction.

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