Triathlon was approved earlier this year as the latest sport be added to the NCAA’s list of emerging sports and it will begin its trial period in fall 2015. It had strong support from schools very interested in adding the program and was also bolstered by the existence of club teams already in existence.
As a reminder, the list of emerging sports is meant to grow the participation opportunities for female students. Emerging sports are listed as NCAA-approved, and thus can be counted towards Title IX calculations. The sport is given a period (10 years) in which to grow into championship status. Forty schools must implement the sport for this to happen (28 for DIII).
Some sports have been more successful than others in gaining championship status, but the process seems to assist at least in the process of figuring out which sports are viable. Two caveats, though.
One: as has been noted repeatedly in the research about women’s participation in sports in the Title IX era, the addition of sports has mostly benefited white, middle class women. I don’t see triathlon as changing that dynamic at all given the demographics of those who participate in the sport at the recreational and elite levels.
Two: the emerging sport may not make it to championship status because it does not have enough promotion by a national governing body or other interested parties. In other words, it may fail because of lack of information, not necessarily interest.
USA Triathlon is addressing the second issue (and perhaps, by extension, the first?) by putting money into programs that begin triathlon programs. The group makes so much money off of adult participants that is pushing some of these funds into college programs via $2.6 million in grants. Interested schools will fill out an application. USA Triathlon will award 20 grants in total among all three divisions. 20 grants among schools in all three NCAA divisions. Division I teams will be eligible for up to $140,000 over four seasons. Division II and III schools, up to $70,000.
It is not a large amount of money, but it could provide some incentives to schools interested in trying out the sport.