Friday's Override Vote to Decide Sand Volleyball for NCAA Division I

1/12/2010

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Division I Colleges Revisit Status of Sand Volleyball 

By KEN BELSON and KATIE THOMAS

The New York Times 

N.C.A.A. institutions are expected to vote Friday on a measure that could knock sand volleyball - the popular outdoor cousin of indoor volleyball - off a list of emerging sports seeking full championship status.

Among the 63 colleges trying to remove the sport commonly known as beach volleyball are all 11 members of the Big Ten Conference as well as Duke, Clemson and Stanford. The override proposal requires the approval of five-eighths of Division I schools and conferences in attendance at the N.C.A.A. Convention in Atlanta.

Colleges with established indoor programs fear that those who add sand volleyball will have an advantage in recruiting over schools that have only the more traditional version of the sport. They also worry that given scarce resources during the recession, one iteration of the game will siphon from the other. The conflict has pitted schools in warm weather states against rivals in northern and Midwestern states.

Beach volleyball, with its bikini-clad athletes and beach culture aesthetic, has surged in popularity ever since the sport was added to the Summer Olympics in 1996. This popular appeal is one reason CBS College Sports Network helped create the women's Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship, which it has broadcast the last four years.

"The desire is there, the love of the sport is there and the time has come to develop sand volleyball," said Kerri Walsh, who with Misty May-Treanor has dominated the women's Olympic beach event. Walsh was a star indoor player at Stanford. "I think people are stuck in their traditions and change is difficult when you're stuck in those traditions."

Sand volleyball was added to the list of emerging sports last April, a designation intended to encourage the development of opportunities for women by awarding N.C.A.A. subsidies to schools that initiate programs. Sports on the list are given full championship status if 40 schools begin programs within 10 years. Sand volleyball is expected to be played in the spring, while indoor volleyball takes place in the fall, allowing athletes to play for both teams.

If sand volleyball supporters stave off the override, they will begin addressing development issues like how to recruit players and when to schedule games.

Sand volleyball's status as an emerging sport in Division II has not been challenged, and Division III administrators chose not to grant the sport emerging status.

Supporters argue that new programs would create new scholarships and a pipeline of talent for the country's Olympic team and professional circuit. Investing in the sport is voluntary and relatively inexpensive, they say, and a potential moneymaker for schools.

"Sand volleyball will open up an explosion of opportunities," said Kathy DeBoer, the executive director of the American Volleyball Coaches Association, the governing body for volleyball coaches nationally. "You're going to get an opportunity for kids who might not have played before."

DeBoer does not deny that sand volleyball will initially draw indoor volleyball players, a threat to established programs. The same was true of women's field hockey and lacrosse teams that attracted soccer players at first. But over the long term, she said, players will specialize in sand volleyball just as they have at the indoor game.

But Mark Rosen, the volleyball coach at the University of Michigan, opposes sand volleyball because he says it puts schools in cold-weather states at a disadvantage. "If a school in the south has both programs and one in the north doesn't, it forces me to lose a recruit or ask my athletic director to spend money where he can't spend it elsewhere," he said.

Rosen said many northern schools will end up playing a majority of their games on the road because it will be too cold at home to play outdoors in March or April.

Schools that want to override sand volleyball also question how many new scholarships will really be created. Initially, cash-strapped schools may ask indoor volleyball players and coaches to play sand volleyball as well.

"When you start double-dipping, you're not adding," Rosen said.

Sand volleyball backers note that the number of sand volleyball players nationwide grew 7.5 percent in 2008, to 4.2 million players, according to a study by the Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association. About 64 percent of those players did not play the indoor game, the study showed.

The best solution, some say, is for both sides to take more time to resolve their differences.

"They are politicizing it and once it's off the table, it's hard to get it back," said Billy Stone, an executive producer for the CBS College Sports Network's Alt Games event. "The last thing you would want to do is quickly vote against this and eliminate opportunities for women."

 

Override to decide sand volleyball, baseball season

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick
The NCAA News

Delegates will participate in two override votes during the Division I business session next week, marking the fifth consecutive year of override activity.

Members will vote on legislation adding a 14th week to the beginning of the baseball season and adding sand volleyball to the list of emerging sports for women.

The Division I business session is January 15 at the NCAA Convention in Atlanta. A five-eighths majority is required to overturn the legislation.

In July, the Legislative Council sustained its approval of the two proposals. The Board allowed the Legislative Council action to stand, sending the proposals to the Convention.

The sand volleyball proposal, No. 2008-59, originally came from the Committee on Women's Athletics as a way to increase opportunities for female student-athletes and  passed initially by a wide margin. Even when the Legislative Council reconsidered the proposal in July, about 65 percent of the group supported it.

Division II also supported adding the sport, and work has begun in both divisions to shape playing and practice seasons and playing rules. The legislation would become effective August 1, 2010.

Institutions objecting to the legislation cited a competitive advantage for schools with large budgets and those located on the West Coast. They also noted the additional financial, compliance and personnel burdens that could be associated with adding a new sport.

The American Volleyball Coaches Association opposes the override, as does the national SAAC.

"Wherever you can create opportunities for student-athletes to play the sport they love, it's a positive," said SAAC chair Matt Baysinger. "We understand the sentiment that it may create an advantage for the schools that offer it now, but that's a small piece of the puzzle."

To read the entire article, including information on the baseball override, click here.

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