Stevenson University announced on Wednesday that it has created a men’s beach volleyball varsity team, becoming the first NCAA school in the nation to do so. The program will begin during the fall 2022 semester.
The move comes as Stevenson looks to develop and pioneer new athletic programs that would make it stand out in a region with a wealth of colleges and universities.
In spring 2016, Stevenson became the first NCAA school to have a varsity women’s beach volleyball team.
Stevenson is also one of three Maryland schools to be a part of the National Association of Collegiate Esports, along with Hood College and Mount St. Mary’s University. Stevenson joined NACE in 2017.
While Division III schools are not allowed to give out athletic scholarships, Stevenson Athletic Director Brett Adams hopes that people will attend Stevenson to play on the newly formed team.
“Our audience is the growing subgroup of juniors playing boys beach volleyball,” Adams said.
Adams mentioned the lack of men’s beach volleyball teams as a problem for people who want to play professionally but essentially have to take a break once they get to college.
“There is no vehicle from the collegiate group for men’s beach volleyball,” Adams said. “It’s been such a great sport for us and for the women, and the guys want the same opportunities, so it made sense for us to create that opportunity. We don’t mind being first.”
While the men’s beach volleyball team will compete only against college club teams this upcoming semester, there is an expectation that other universities will follow Stevenson in creating a varsity team, similar to what happened in 2016 with the women’s sport.
There are now 86 universities in the nation that have a women’s beach volleyball team, and Kathy DeBoer, executive director of the American Volleyball Coaches Association, said she believes that trend will continue for the men’s sport.
“We believe the momentum is there to reach 50 or more varsity programs over the next few years and transition this to an NCAA Championship sport,” DeBoer said in a news release.
While that number seems pretty optimistic, Adams also expects there to be challenges at the beginning, such as the time of year that it is played.
“It’ll be a sport that’s run in the fall, whereas women’s beach is the spring, and with the NCAA it’s the same for indoor volleyball,” Adams said.
Some coaches work with both men’s and women’s volleyball teams, and so to continue allowing that, men’s and women’s indoor and beach volleyball will happen at different times.
“We are having a national search right now, so we could hire a coach from any place,” Adams said. “Likely, it’s probably going to be a coach who’s local, but that is yet to be determined. We do have a strong volleyball program here with both head coaches and assistants, who have helped us get things off the ground, but we will be looking for a new coach.”