Where is collegiate triathlon heading? And will Triathlon Scholarships ever be offered to men?
The triathlon is an athletic contest made up of three consecutive events, usually swimming, cycling and long distance running. This extreme test of endurance and willpower has been an Olympic event since 2000 for both men and women. Its rise in popularity, especially among women on college campuses, has resulted in the NCAA officially declaring it an “emerging sport.”
What is an emerging sport?
According to NCAA.org, an emerging sport is “a sport recognized by the NCAA that is intended to provide additional athletics opportunities to female student-athletes. Institutions are allowed to use emerging sports to help meet the NCAA minimum sports-sponsorship requirements and also to meet the NCAA’s minimum financial aid awards.”
Emerging sports were created to increase the opportunities for women in order to satisfy Title IX requirements for equal athletic benefits and scholarships for males and females. During this 20-year program, four emerging sports, rowing, ice hockey, water polo and bowling, have become official NCAA women’s sports. Others like, archery, badminton, squash, synchronized swimming and team handball, were all voted as an emerging sport, but failed to meet the requirements for permanent status.
In order to become an official NCAA sport, women’s triathlon needs 40 schools at the DI and DII level and 28 DIII schools to participate. If this does not happen over the next 10 years, the NCAA will drop the sport.
No aid for men’s triathlon
Despite growing popularity among men, there is very little chance that men’s triathlon becomes an official NCAA sport.
Football, with its 85 scholarships, makes it nearly impossible under Title IX for other men’s sports to receive financial aid and official status. The only way for smaller sports, like men’s triathlon, to become official is to get rid of football.
Unfortunately for male triathletes, that is never going to happen because football brings in the overwhelming majority of athletic revenue for universities.
The future is bright for Olympic triathletes
For years, the premier triathletes were NCAA swimmers or runners. With access to scholarships in the triathlon, female student-athletes can now specialize in that sport. Four-time triathlon U.S. Olympian Hunter Kemper, a collegiate swimmer, believes he lagged behind triathletes from other countries, telling triathlon.competitor.com:
“It worked out for me, but delayed my progress, I could tell you that. When you’re in Australia or New Zealand, those guys are professionals right when they graduate from high school, and it’s tough to compete against those guys.”
Granted, male triathletes will still struggle to compete internationally, but scholarship female student-athletes will now have the time to hone their craft and compete at the highest level.