NCAA Triathlon Proposal Reaches Milestone, Teams Possible by 2015

April 23, 2013

Indianapolis, Ind. - Next week, collegiate triathlon is expected to take an important milestone in the process for becoming a NCAA sport. This news comes on the heels of the 2013 USAT Collegiate National Championships held in Tempe, Ariz., which saw the University of Colorado win its fourth-consecutive team title, and just days ahead of a critical NCAA deadline that threatened to derail the proposal.

 

On April 29th, a group of individuals that represent the sport and the NCAA proposal will travel to the NCAA’s headquarters in Indianapolis, Ind., to meet with the Committee on Women’s Athletics (CWA) to answer final questions about the proposal to name triathlon an “emerging sport for women.”

 

This route to NCAA recognition was established in 1994 as a means of correcting widespread gender-equity issues that plagued varsity sports and placed many schools in violation of federal Title XI regulations. The multistep process requires 1) 10 written letters of support from NCAA schools, signed by the university president and athletic director 2) adoption by the CWA and 3) a vote of approval from NCAA membership at its annual January meeting.

Women’s rowing, ice hockey, water polo and bowling are the success stories of the process. Each began with the “emerging” tagline and are today full-fledged NCAA championships sports, having demonstrated “steady growth” and reaching 40 varsity programs within 10 years.

 

Next Monday’s meeting could go a long way in helping add triathlon to that list of success stories, but it’s a meeting that almost never happened.

 

For the greater part of four years, Brad Hecker, the Director of Women’s Basketball for the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), and Jeff Dyrek, USAT National Events Director, have worked to secure the written support of triathlon as a varsity sport from NCAA institutions. Hecker and Dyrek had managed seven by the end of 2012. The letters, however, are not valid indefinitely. Just three shy of the necessary 10, a number of the first letters Hecker and Dyrek solicited were scheduled to expire at the end of April.

 

Hecker and Dyrek were facing a worst-case scenario.

 

Getting the letters in the first place was difficult. Getting them again would be nearly impossible. Despite a wealth of connections, Hecker and Dyrek’s appeals for triathlon had only produced incremental progress in the complex and political world of intercollegiate athletics over a multiyear span. Triathlon’s proposal was weeks away from heading in the

wrong direction – fast.

 

With the process stalled, Karen Morrison, the NCAA Director of Inclusion, stepped up in a major way by collecting the final three needed letters from Drake University, the University of Denver and the University of North Carolina Asheville. The full list includes Adams State, U.S. Air Force Academy, Arizona, Colorado at Colorado Springs, Drake, Denver, Monmouth, Marymount, UNC Asheville and Stanford.

 

 

Next Monday, the CWA is expected to adopt triathlon’s emerging sport proposal and in doing so could dramatically hasten the sport’s arc toward NCAA recognition.

 

If approved by one or more of the NCAA’s three divisions in January, we could see varsity teams with scholarship athletes as soon as August 2015.

 

“There is still a tremendous amount of work to do to explain and justify this ‘non-traditional’ sport to collegiate athletic administrations accustomed to ‘traditional’ sports,” said Hecker. But Monday’s presentation will be an important first step.

 

Between Monday’s meeting with the CWA and January’s vote by the NCAA membership, the bulk of Hecker’s work will focus on an education campaign for university administrators. It will require assistance and resources from USAT, but several high-profile triathletes are already lending their support to the cause.

 

Gwen Jorgenson, who last weekend became the first American to win a World Triathlon Series event, may be among those at Monday’s meeting with the CWA.

 

And in an interview Monday with TriTrackers, Lukas Verzbicas, one of the sport’s best young talents and brightest hopes for Rio in 2016, said “I think triathlon is definitely ready for the NCAA, especially for the women. Just look at how the sport is growing. If you look at Stanford and Colorado Boulder…they are at that level already."

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