June 2016 - Good Grade for Collegiate Equestrian

National effort to support varsity-level collegiate equestrian gets another green light.

The Committee on Women’s Athletics confirmed its support for equestrian to remain on the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Emerging Sports list during the April meeting in Indianapolis. The committee voted on and approved a statement recommending that equestrian remain on the Emerging Sports list due to new organizational efforts, membership feedback and potential growth.

Over the past 12 months, support for the sport of equestrian has surged with renewed enthusiasm from both NCAA membership as well as stakeholders in the equine industry.  The National Collegiate Equestrian Association, in collaboration with the NCAA, oversees the sport of equestrian while under the Emerging Sports umbrella. With renewed focus on expansion of the sport, the NCEA has provided the foundation for a stronger support base for the sport to remain viable within the collegiate setting.

On example of the industry support that has made this good news possible is the new NCEA Junior Hunt Seat Finals. Qualifying classes for this bi-coastal championship are being held at all HITS shows throughout the country, and the West Coast Finals will take place during the Sunshine II, Nov. 9-13 at the Desert Horse Park in Thermal. The East Finals are set for HITS Culpepper venue in September. (California Riding Magazine, April 2016)

The inaugural 3’3” equitation class is open to all USEF and Equine Canada licensed junior competitors and is intended to showcase a unique level of competitor to top coaches and colleges for equestrian scholarship consideration.

Both finals hosted by HITS will include a video recording of the class which will be distributed to leading collegiate coaches as a way to track rider’s improvement and evolution as an athlete.

“The finals will be an opportunity for college bound equestrians to showcase their talents to all the major colleges that are presently engaged in NCAA riding,” said HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri. “I personally have seen these programs allow riders to attend schools that were previously out of their financial range.”

Encouraging Support

Dr. Leah Fiorentino, executive director of the NCEA responded to the CWA message. “Our initial efforts to reorganize our resources and implement a sound strategic plan for growth and expansion have been recognized by the NCAA,” said Fiorentino. “We are encouraged by the support we’ve received from the NCAA leadership as well as our colleagues involved with the other Olympic Sports. With the continued support of the NCAA we look forward to ensuring that equestrian will be part of the effort to maintain meaningful educational opportunities for women through athletics.”

In the fall of 2014, the CWA recommended that equestrian be dropped from the Emerging Sports list due to the limited growth in the number of teams sponsoring equestrian. Representatives from Division I and Division II rejected the CWA recommendation in support of maintaining participation opportunities for women. Multiple updates on the progress of the sport from the NCEA leadership offered a new perspective on equestrian and convinced the CWA to reconsider its earlier action.

“Receiving the support of the CWA based on this latest action is crucial to the continued growth and development of the sport on the collegiate level,” said Nancy Post, senior woman administrator at Baylor University. “Our work to expand the sport has been hampered by the uncertainty of future support from the NCAA. This public statement from the NCAA clears the way for several schools to move forward with the addition of equestrian as a varsity sport on their campus.”

Part of the NCEA’s new structure includes a National Advisory Board comprised of corporate leaders, philanthropists and equine industry experts. The goal of the NAB is to develop financial support to make equestrian the first financially-independent non-revenue generating collegiate sport. The board’s efforts have shown early success in the form of grants to help sustain current NCEA teams, as well as providing financial strategies for the development of new equestrian teams across the nation.

“Working with the NAB has sharpened our focus and allowed us to adopt a more progressive and strategic approach to expanding the sport across the country,” said Kevin Hurley, associate athletic director at Texas A&M University.

“The NAB is directly involved in the campus meetings that we arrange with new schools that have shown interest in sponsoring equestrian,” commented Hurley.

Gathering support from stakeholders from the NCAA and the USOC has positioned equestrian for a successful future in the world of collegiate sports.

For more information about the NCEA, visit www.collegiateequestrian.com.