The NCAA’s Committee on Women’s Athletics has recommended all three divisions introduce legislation to make triathlon the next emerging sport for women. If adopted, NCAA triathlon competition would start in the fall of 2014.
The recommendation from CWA is for athletes to participate in four to six triathlon meets per year. The competition format would be shorter than an Ironman triathlon and held in more spectator-friendly areas like doing the swimming in pools and the biking over a loop. Scholarship aid might be available right from the start, with 3.5 equivalency scholarships in 2014-15 rising to 6.5 in 2017-18.
12 schools from all over the country have signed on, including four schools in Colorado and a BCS school (Stanford). As an emerging sport, triathlon would have 10 years to get 40 schools to sponsor it and become an NCAA championship sport, or show steady progress toward that goal.
There are currently three emerging sports for women: equestrian, rugby, and sand volleyball. Sand volleyball was the most recent addition, after a bitter fight in 2009 and 2010. The success of emerging sports making it to championship status is mixed. Ice hockey, rowing, bowling, and water polo have become NCAA championships for women, and sand volleyball is well on its way. But archery, badminton, synchronized swimming, and team handball were removed from the list in 2009 and equestrian and rugby may need to show more growth soon.
The CWA is already pushing to avoid a repeat of the sand volleyball process, when the sport had to survive an override vote to make it onto the emerging sports list. Unlike sand volleyball, triathlon is not tied as closely to another sport; a sand program was seen as an obligation by many successful indoor volleyball programs. The fall schedule may also calm some fears that triathlon will be used as a general training program/extra scholarships for other sports as well.
Divisions II and III may sponsor the legislation immediately. Division I will be trickier as the Board of Directors still seems committed to only looking at Rules Working Group legislation in 2013-14. But an initiative from the Committee on Women’s Athletics may break through and get consideration by the Division I membership.