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Publish date: Dec 6, 2010

Division I to consider parameters for sand volleyball

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

The Division I membership will have the opportunity in January to shape the look of sand volleyball when the Legislative Council takes its first votes on measures to mold the sport.

Proposals, some modified by a working group designed to address concerns about the sport, would regulate the personnel and recruiting, financial aid, playing and practice seasons, and membership requirements for sport sponsorship.

Division II, which also adopted sand volleyball as an emerging sport, already adopted its framework for the sport.

The Sand Volleyball Working Group, created after the final adoption of the sport as an emerging sport for women and the postponement of the effective date for its addition from August 1, 2010, to August 1, 2011, included Legislative Council members and representatives of the Collegiate Commissioners Association Compliance Administrators to develop a legislative framework for the sport. The working group examined legislation already proposed by various cabinets and conferences and either supported the proposals or suggested modifications.

The Council will consider three proposals regulating personnel and recruiting:

  • 2009-19-A, sponsored by the Recruiting and Athletics Personnel Cabinet, which would limit institutions that sponsor only sand volleyball to two coaches (including two who may contact or evaluate prospects off campus at any one time). The legislation would limit institutions that sponsor both the sand and floor game to four total coaches but still limit the number of off-campus recruiters to two at any one time.
  • 2009-19-B, sponsored by the Legislative Council, which would limit the number of coaches in sand volleyball to two, with the number of off-campus recruiters at any one time also limited to two. In this proposal, the coaching limits are not tied to whether an institution sponsors sand or women’s volleyball or both.
  • 2009-39, sponsored by the Recruiting and Athletics Personnel Cabinet (which modified its original proposal to accept changes suggested by the working group), which would limit institutions that sponsor only sand volleyball to 80 evaluation days annually and institutions that sponsor both sand and women’s volleyball to 80 days for the women’s game and an additional 20 days specific to sand volleyball competition. If an institution sponsors both sports, any volleyball contact a coach has through a local sports club shall count toward the limit. The legislation would also subject sand volleyball coaches to the women’s volleyball recruiting calendar.

The working group supports 2009-19-B over 2009-19-A because it addresses concerns with cost. Under 2009-19-B, institutions would not need to hire an additional coach to sponsor sand volleyball, and no advantage would be gained by institutions that sponsored both sports.

Sarah Wilhelmi, a working group member and assistant commissioner of the West Coast Conference, said cost concerns and competitive equity were a major focus of the group’s discussions.

“We wanted to offer an option that wouldn’t require a lot of resources right off the bat,” Wilhelmi said. “A lot of the discussion came from the feasibility of actually launching a program on campus in the current financial climate.”

The group also supported 2009-39 as modified, believing that an additional, different volleyball recruiting calendar isn’t necessary yet, and that the additional days for institutions that sponsor both sports will not be a recruiting advantage and may assist in the growth of sand volleyball by spurring the creation of additional sand events to correspond with the 20 additional sand-specific evaluation days.

The Council will also consider 2009-70-A and 2009-70-B to establish the financial aid structure for sand volleyball. Both proposals would create the following phased-in approach for financial aid equivalencies and counters for schools that sponsor both the women’s indoor and women’s sand games:

  • In 2011-12, three equivalencies and 14 counters,
  • In 2012-13, four equivalencies and 14 counters,
  • In 2013-14, five equivalencies and 14 counters, and
  • In 2014-15 and thereafter, six equivalencies and 14 counters.

Schools that sponsor only sand volleyball would be limited to eight equivalencies and 14 counters. Where the two proposals differ is an added provision in 2009-70-A, which would require sand volleyball student-athletes who participate only in the sand game during their freshman year but who later participate in women’s volleyball during their second year of enrollment to be retroactive counters in women’s volleyball during the freshman year.

The modification was recommended by the working group as a way to keep coaches of elite programs from stockpiling talent. T.J. Meagher, an associate athletics director at Houston and a member of the American Volleyball Coaches Association board, served on the working group as well. Meagher said the provision was modeled after a National Letter of Intent regulation that prevents schools from securing an early commitment from football players by signing them to the track team.

“It started out as an idea to protect the indoor game,” Meagher said. “We couldn’t do it in the same way as the NLI, so we figured out a way to protect the indoor game and prevent schools from creating a sand team that’s really a training program for their indoor program.”

Wilhelmi said the provision would prevent a dilution of the sport.

“If you’re going to put resources into launching a sand program, you need to be sure the student-athletes are dedicated to that sport,” she said.

The Council will also consider 2009-83, sponsored by the Sun Belt Conference, which requires schools that sponsor sand volleyball to play at least eight contests and limits the number of total dates of competition to 16. No more than two dates of competition can be in the nonchampionship segment. The proposal also limits the championship season to eight weeks plus the following weekend, beginning on the first Thursday in March.

The original proposal allowed 18 dates of competition, and the working group recommended a reduction to minimize missed class time and provide flexibility in scheduling between the nonchampionship and championship segments.

Wilhelmi said the reduction in contests was the result of a “good compromise.”

“We wanted to make sure it wasn’t too aggressive,” she said. “We were trying to have consideration for the coaches and student-athletes that might be multi-sport. We wanted to sustain a season for these programs but add some flexibility in how it’s structured.”

Division II adopted a structure that allows a maximum of 16 dates of competition in the championship segment and four during the nonchampionship segment.

Both Wilhelmi and Meagher supported the working group effort and praised the concept of bringing together various stakeholders to focus on the issue.

“It was a very intelligent approach to solving a diversified and complex problem,” Meagher said.

The Legislative Council will cast its first votes on all of the proposals at the 2011 NCAA Convention in January. The Council will have the opportunity to adopt or defeat the measures, or send them for membership comment. If the legislative framework for the sport is not finalized in January, the Council meets again to cast final votes in April.

Read moreabout how sand volleyball became an emerging sport.