Women’s triathlon was approved as an emerging sport by the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Division I Legislative Committee, a step toward the sport achieving full varsity status.
Triathlon, a combined swimming, cycling and running race, will be a fall season sport beginning in August 2014, according to USA Triathlon, the sport’s governing body in the U.S. The NCAA’s Division II and III committees will also vote on the proposal during this week’s NCAA Convention in San Diego.
Rob Urbach, chief executive officer of USA Triathlon, said the vote was a “watershed moment” for the sport, with 95 percent in favor of adding women’s triathlon, he said.
“After four years of hard work behind the scenes, this announcement represents a huge victory for current and future student-athletes, for the NCAA member institutions that will operate varsity triathlon programs, and for USA Triathlon’s future Olympic success,” Urbach said in a statement on his organization’s website.
An emerging sport, a designation only given to women’s athletic programs, gains full varsity status if 40 schools add it within 10 years. Other current women’s sports that have followed that route to varsity status include ice hockey, water polo and rowing.
Adding women’s triathlon would create as many as 10 spots for female athletes at each college that fields a team. The addition would help schools meet Title IX standards requiring women to be offered the same opportunities as men. It also could have a far-reaching effect on the sport in the U.S., college coaches, USA Triathlon officials and triathletes have said.
Stanford University, along with Arizona, the U.S. Air Force Academy, Denver, Drake, Monmouth, North Carolina-Asheville and Northern Iowa were among the schools seeking to add Division I women’s triathlon teams. Adams State and Colorado at Colorado Springs are seeking Division II teams, while Maine-Farmington has joined Marymount with support for a Division III team.
Men’s triathlon isn’t part of the proposal. If the sport is added for women, men’s programs will probably follow, USA Triathlon officials said.
About 150 schools have club programs in triathlon and about 400 women competed in the 2013 collegiate national championship in Tempe, Arizona. The event, staged by USA Triathlon, wasn’t an official NCAA championship.