The UCR athletic department is looking into a possible reorganization of certain programs by removing men’s tennis and replacing it with women’s sand volleyball. The primary purpose of the proposed change is to free up funds to fully accommodate all other programs. The department also cited a desire to increase participation in women’s sports.
Athletics Director Brian Wickstrom asked UCR and surrounding community to share their thoughts on the proposed idea by holding a 10-day comment period until May 28. By exchanging men’s tennis with women’s sand volleyball, the athletics department expects to save nearly $150,000 annually, which can be distributed to other sports programs. Another issue is that when the expansion of the Student Recreation center starts, access to the tennis courts will be limited for two years. In the press release, the athletics department also cited that student and community interest in the men’s tennis program is low. The interest in sand volleyball, according to the proposal, is growing as a few students on campus have formed a sand volleyball club. In addition, the city of Riverside hosted the AVP Crocs Tour Riverside Open, a professional beach volleyball tournament, which drew a notable crowd at the Riverside Convention Center in 2009.
If sand volleyball is adopted, the athletics department will construct three courts at an estimated cost of $76,000. Additional scholarships will not be needed as sand volleyball athletes will also be part of the women’s indoor volleyball team. This is possible since sand and indoor volleyball seasons are held in different months of the year.
Sand volleyball is a relatively new collegiate sport—having its first official season just last year. The NCAA termed the sport sand volleyball, which is otherwise known as beach volleyball, in order to attract landlocked universities like UCR to pick up the sport.
One issue with its adoption at UCR is the lack of Big West competitors, as CSU Long Beach is the only Big West conference team to have adopted the sport so far. Therefore, travel costs will be a huge expense. There are only 16 Division I schools currently with sand volleyball teams. Only five of those teams are located in the west: Pepperdine, USC, Hawaii, Loyola Marymount and CSU Long Beach. Pepperdine won the NCAA national championships last year, defeating CSU Long Beach in the final round.
A decision on whether the athletic department will go forward on this proposal will be announced by the end of the first week of June.