February 9, 2009

Collegiate Sand Volleyball

A question from a reader that I cannot and will not (mostly) answer:

What can you tell me about the addition of Sand Volleyball to Division II collegiate sports, beginning in 2010? Does this include NCAA and NAIA? Are Div I, Div III, or Junior Colleges a contender for this sport?
Thank you, Sheri

(Sheri, I apologize for the rant that is commencing below and when I say "you", I don't mean you as in Sheri, I mean you as in those coaches and administrators that support sand volleyball as a NCAA sport).

First of all, I can tell you that Collegiate Sand Volleyball is a shell game by the NCAA to double count female athletes to justify the huge roster for football and the unreal financial support for men's basketball and football.

For NCAA Women's Volleyball coaches to support this 'emerging' sport is illogical. The addition of women's Sand Volleyball will do NOTHING, let me repeat just to make sure everyone is clear, NOTHING to help women's indoor volleyball. It will not attract more fans into the arenas, it will not increase the budgets, it will not raise salaries, it will not create more opportunities for female athletes and it will not get volleyball on television more (which has been the mantra of the AVCA as to how women's volleyball will become big time).

The reality is that each of those things which I have listed above will be reduced:

More Fans - Has Misty May (I keep forgetting the Treanor part) and Karrie Walsh's unreal success translated into more fans attending the USA Women's National team matches or NCAA Top 10 matches? No. Which is the casual or new fan going to choose as their destination, indoor or sand volleyball? I think that the sun, the sand and female athletes in bikinis may draw a few fans away from almost empty arenas where there is no energy or buzz because volleyball teams don't enjoy the same promotional protocols which magically appear early November every year (every wonder why a basketball game environment 'looks' so different than a volleyball game's?). It is falacy to think that when a fan sees sand volleyball in the spring, they are going to translate this into going to see indoor volleyball.

Budgets - Now, more than ever, each dollar is precious to the volleyball budget. With the budget cuts that all programs are taking, do you believe that an athletic department is
really going to properly fund Sand Volleyball or are they going to throw just enough dollars out there and expect the rest of the funds to slide on over from indoor volleyball? Football and basketball will get cut, but that is like taking away the green peas from the salad bar, while volleyball is about to lose the croutons!!!! I think a few thousand extra 'croutons' are going to be shifted from what should go towards volleyball and they will wind up in the new budget for Sand Volleyball.

Salaries - Along the same train of thought for budgets, are new coaches going to be hired for Sand Volleyball? No, no and again, no. The volleyball coaches will just be
expected to become the Sand Volleyball coaches. As those that have ever played beach volleyball at a very high level know all to well there is a huge difference between indoor and beach volleyball - they are very different games. To expect the indoor coaches to coach Sand Volleyball should illustrate that the NCAA (in which rules and proposals are voted upon by athletic directors) and thus athletic directors have no real support or comprehension of what Sand Volleyball means - it is just a way to 'count' more female athletes. So, the college coach is now asked to coach Sand Volleyball - Again to the budgets, how much (if any) will they be paid? My guess is just a couple thousand dollar stipend, since their real job is Volleyball; but, they will be expected to select, train, travel and compete. Their responsibilities have increased more than what their compensation has, thus they are earning less for the amount which they are working.

Opportunities for Females - This is the real joke; it would be funnier still if I were not a volleyball coach. How is this going to 'create' more opportunities for females? Are athletic departments going to fund recruiting budgets? Other than showing up somewhere in south Florida or southern California, how would coaches go find these new female athletes to provide this opportunity? Forget about finding players on campus; if they are good enough to play competitively on the sand, then coaches would have attracted them onto their volleyball teams. What is going to happen, is that a few players from the volleyball team will now become the Sand Volleyball team. How is this creating new opportunities for females? It is not a
new opportunity for an indoor player to go play on the sand - players do this all the time. What this is, is a new opportunity for the NCAA (and thus AD's) equity counters to create x number of positive additions to the female athlete count.

Television - Like the illustration with more fans, television will have a choice; what to telecast. The networks have already shown their preference by showing pro beach volleyball quite often. When was the last time you saw the USA Men's or Women's National team on Fox, ESPN or the 3 networks? Never. The same thing will happen when the choice is between indoor or sand women's volleyball. Sand Volleyball a better/easier package to telecast; the ball moves slower, there are only two players per side to focus on, the rallies are longer and the time between plays is longer which allows for more commentary/commercial segments.

Again, this is a shell game by the NCAA to add female numbers to the equity equation. The AVCA only cares about saying, for their own counting systems, that more people are playing volleyball. They have demonstrated that lifting NCAA volleyball to a Flagship status is not their priority. Their priority is to increase their membership total.

Let's look at the undisputed Flagship sports of the NCAA - Football, Men's Basketball and Women's Basketball. Are any of these sports supporting a NCAA emerging sport? NO - They are constantly focused on how they can maximize their own sport and capture a larger piece of the athletics pie.

Now, onto the other sports that are trying to become the 4th Flagship sport - Women's Soccer, Women's Volleyball and Women's Softball. Which one of these sports is supporting an Emerging sport? Just Volleyball.

Sure, the popularity of Sand Volleyball is strong; MMT and KW are winning everything in sight (except some dance contest), but so is Rhythmic Gymnastics, Synchronized Swimming, Sand Soccer (yes, it is a smaller playing surface on sand, usually at the beach) and many other hybrid Olympic style sports, but we (volleyball) seem to be the only ones dumb enough to support an Emerging sport.

Women's NCAA Volleyball has so much potential (just look at the world wide support for women's volleyball) and we have such a long ways to go to achieve anything approaching women's basketball (how many head volleyball coaches have their own private dressing rooms with a shower and lounge area?), yet we want to go off on some tangent that will have a negative net effect upon our sport.

The sad thing is that in the end, we will not be helping female athletes or women's athletics. In the end, we will be helping football and basketball.

OK - Now to kinda answer Sheri's questions:

I am unaware of the specifics of NCAA Sand Volleyball being added as a Division II sport - honestly, I thought it was only being considered for Division I. I would suggest you visit the www.ncaa.org site and do a search on Sand Volleyball or Emerging sports. This may give you the information which I cannot.

The NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics) is a completely separate governing body from the NCAA. If the NAIA was to support Sand Volleyball, it would be per their own preferences. Same for the Junior Colleges (NJCAA); they will set their own protocols.

As for which divisions of the NCAA will sponsor Sand Volleyball, that is another search question for the NCAA website.