The National Collegiate Athletic Association is in the process of deciding the fate of equestrian as a sport within the organization.
The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics stated in a letter to the National College Equestrian Association that they will vote to remove equestrian, currently classified as an “emerging sport,” at an Oct. 20 meeting of the NCAA Legislative Council. According to a release from the American Quarter Horse Association, the decision would then go forward to votes at three additional NCAA committees, councils and boards.
“Earlier this fall, the NCEA received notice from the NCAA’s [CWA] that it has recommended the removal of equestrian from the list of emerging sports for women in Divisions I and II,” stated the NCEA in a press release on Oct. 15. “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.”
The NCAA classified equestrian as an emerging sport in 2002, and it was given 10 years to get 40 schools in the program. The NCEA was created in order to fulfill that mission and bring equestrian up to championship status. Due to growth, the sport was granted an extension after that 10-year period. But there are now just 22 institutions involved.
At its May meeting, the NCAA CWA voted to require a strategic action plan from NCEA for getting a minimum of 40 institutions involved.
“An NCEA strategic plan was built and provided to the CWA for review at its September 2014 meeting,” stated the NCEA release. “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,” the release continued. “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.”
Kansas State announced Oct. 13 that they are canceling their equestrian program after the 2015-2016 season. The university announced the closure as a response to the potential NCAA cancelation.
“While this was an extremely difficult and complex decision, we are proud of the effort of our equestrian coaches and student-athletes and the first class way they have represented K-State since the program’s inception in 2000,” said Kansas State athletics director John Currie in a statement. “Unfortunately with equestrian no longer projected to count toward the minimum NCAA requirement of 16 sponsored varsity programs as detailed in NCAA Bylaw 20.9.6, we must move our resources to another sport to continue our ability to operate as a Division I FBS member of the NCAA.”
The NCAA decision might not be effective until August 2017, but Kansas State officials wish to make a more immediate transition. They are adding Division I soccer teams in place of equestrian, though the school has stated all current equine scholarships will be honored.
“There is never a perfect time for a decision such as this, but to keep with our goal of operating in a transparent and fiscally responsible manner, we believe a transition beginning in 2015-16 creates the best opportunity to allocate limited resources in a manner that propels our program toward our goal of a World-Class Student-Athlete Experience,” Currie said.