Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Since 2002, when the NCAA classified equestrian as an emerging sport, the National Collegiate Equestrian Association has supported the opportunities equestrian has given to young women to compete and receive a quality college education.

Earlier this fall, the NCEA received notice from the NCAA’s Committee on Women’s Athletics (CWA) that it has recommended the removal of equestrian from the list of emerging sports for women in Divisions I and II.

In 1998, there were just six programs that sponsored Division I equestrian at the college level.  Today, there are currently 22 colleges and universities offering equestrian as a varsity sport.  In its initial designation as an emerging sport, the NCEA was given a target of 40 sponsored schools by the NCAA.

Since 1998, the total number of competitors in Division I college equestrian has increased from 230 to 719 – a three-fold increase.  These are young women who have used the benefits of intercollegiate athletic association to get a college degree, that otherwise may not have had this option.  

There is a process in place for which the NCAA has legislative and leadership committees to consider the recommendation.  The NCEA and its member institutions will vigorously work to support and help maintain college equestrian as an NCAA-sponsored sport.  

In the last several years, college equestrian has been bolstered by the addition of the Big 12 Conference and the Southeastern Conference sponsoring the sport and hosting a championship, as well as the development of a broadened NCEA governance structure.

An NCEA strategic plan was built and provided to the CWA for review at its September 2014 meeting.  We are hopeful that the NCAA will reconsider its recommendation, so that the strategic plan will get an opportunity to be fully operational.

The strategic plan includes strategies for adding programs to the list of schools that sponsor equestrian and to bring NCAA Division III schools in the fold of a “one-division” NCEA equestrian format.

We also will work to educate schools interested in sponsoring equestrian about the financial reasonability of adding the sport.  There are misperceptions about the costs of adding equestrian that the NCEA feels we can address.

Among NCAA Division I programs, only rowing and track & field have a higher average squad size than equestrian (37.8).  The impact of these young women equestrian would be dropped would be devastating.  

To the young women who currently or who wish to compete in collegiate equestrian, the NCEA, its coaches and its member institutions will work to demonstrate that the sport is worthy of consideration to continue as an NCAA-sponsored sport.  

There is a process in place in the NCAA structure for the NCEA’s voice to be heard, and we will enthusiastically tell the story of the young women who have used participation in collegiate equestrian to get a college degree and make our world a better place.

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