Beach volleyball narrowly survives NCAA vote

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Beach volleyball survived as a potential NCAA sport on Friday despite more than half of the schools at the NCAA convention in Atlanta voting to spike the sexier, sandier version of the indoor game that is the second-most widely played women’s college sport.

The vote to remove “sand volleyball” from the list of emerging sports for women — they’re calling it that to avoid scaring away the landlocked schools — was 166-118 with one abstention; the 58 percent in favor was short of the 62.5 percent necessary to kill the sport.

“I’m very proud of those that supported this sport and the new opportunities it will create for women and girls,” said Kathy DeBoer, a longtime Kentucky indoor coach and the executive director of the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

DeBoer said the AVCA would ask for a delay in starting competition, so schools would begin playing in the 2011-12 academic year. If enough add the program over the following 10 years, sand volleyball would become an official NCAA championship sport.

“NCAA sand volleyball will grow our beautiful sport tremendously and provide wonderful opportunities for women to participate in collegiate athletics,” said Jason Hodell, the head of the domestic pro tour, the AVP.

But it almost never got its chance in the sun.

After sand volleyball was added to the emerging sports list last April, 63 schools petitioned the NCAA to reconsider. Many traditional indoor powers, like three-time defending champion Penn State, were concerned about the affect the new discipline will have on the indoor game.

“We have much work to do,” DeBoer said. “There is obviously much concern in Division I about sand volleyball. We have a year to … address these concerns.”

Among the detractors are indoor coaches who fear they will lose players to the two-on-two sport — the only volleyball discipline with a pro tour — and athletic directors who feel they will be pressured to add sand volleyball or lose recruits. Schools have no obligation to add it; other sports on the emerging list include equestrian, crew and squash.

“The reality of it is: If it’s added by our competition, we believe we’ll be forced to add it,” said Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi. “Because were going to recruit the elite student-athlete who’s going to anticipate playing both sports.”

Maturi also wondered whether sand volleyball would create opportunities or just shift indoor players around.

“I strongly believe that we’re going to be counting the same athletes two times,” he said. “It’s hard for me to fathom that somebody who’s a talented young women participating in sand volleyball could not very much stand in as a court volleyball player.”