At the annual NCAA convention taking place this week in San Diego, the Division I Legislative Council voted to add triathlon to the NCAA's list of emerging sports for women. 95% of the votes cast were in favor of the proposal. The Division II and Division II councils will also vote on triathlon's status later at the convention.
The NCAA created the "emerging sports" designation in 1994 as a way to promote new opportunities in women's sports and help universities close the gender gap in athletic opportunities available to students. A university that adds an emerging sport may count it towards the NCAA's minimum sport sponsorship requirements, and in Division I, towards the minimum financial aid requirements. The NCAA's Committee on Women's Athletics proposes emerging sports based on evidence of interest and potential interest at the varsity level. Once a sport is added to the list, it has 10 years to meet the requirements for championship status. In Division I, that means 40 institutions will have to add the sport. Rowing, ice hockey, bowling, and water polo are all current NCAA championship sports that came out of the emerging sports program.
USA Triathlon, the sport's governing body, predicts that triathlon will be an attractive sport for athletic departments to add, because of its potential to generate revenue and community relations by allowing members of the public to register and compete in the same race alongside college participants. This is a valid selling point, but it is important for Title IX compliance that universities do not allow such public participation to overshadow or dilute the collegiate varsity competition.
Division I schools that have reportedly committed to adding a women's triathlon team include Stanford University, the U.S. Air Force
Academy, Denver, Drake, Monmouth, North Carolina-Asheville and
University of Northern Iowa. Division I schools that add triathlon can offer up to 10 scholarships for athletes on the team.