Thanks to an assist from football, a new NCAA Division I beach volleyball program could be coming to south Texas, according to a feasibility study released earlier this week by the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV).
The study, conducted by College Sports Solutions, was a first step in the school’s exploration of adding an NCAA Division I football program (and, doing so at the FBS, or 1A, level).
While the report overwhelmingly supported the idea of adding a football program, it noted possible Title IX pitfalls. The school’s student body for the year studied in the report was 56.6% female, but their athlete opportunities were only 48.6% female – out of line with Title IX’s “substantially proportionate” opportunities requirement. Adding an FBS footballteam would push that to 64% male and 36% female, the study projects, meaning that the school would need to cut men’s sports or adds women’s sports.
Specifically, the study suggests the addition of softball, beach volleyball, and swimming and diving to offset the football addition.
According to an article by the Brownsville Herald on the topic, the study, commissioned in 2016, is dated August 2017. A delay on moving forward with the football program has been caused by the university’s focus on the UTRGV School of Medicine, which had its accredidation placed on probation in December of 2016 by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
UTRGV was founded in 2013 when the system merged UT Brownsville and UT Pan American, and officially began operation in 2015. The school has 2 beach volleyball courts on campus already, and is located aboutu an hour from the nearest beach on the Gulf of Mexico (near popular spring break destination South Padre Island).
The state of Texas currently has 5 NCAA beach volleyball programs, none of which are in the University of Texas system. Those programs are Abilene Christian, Houston Baptist, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and TCU in Division I, and Texas A&M – Kingsville in Division II.