Saturday, February 04, 2006

The NCAA Talks Lightweight Rowing - Comments

The NCAA's answers to my questions (see below) amounted to a punt. A punt because the answer to most of the questions was, "We do whatever the membership wants." I'm not suggesting that this is wrong or untrue, only that it seems a bit disingenuous for the most powerful sports governing body in the country to act as if they only do the will of their members. Nonetheless, let's look at each question.

As for the question of whether the NCAA intends to make lightweight women's rowing an NCAA sport (for better or for worse), the answer is no. Of course, it's up to the rowing committees, and they apparently have no interest. In fact, viewing rowing strictly as a team sport, it appears that lightweights would almost never have a NCAA championship because a lightweight eight would have to be made a component of the team. This is why a reader wrote a week or two back to say that the best move to help lightweights get a championship would be for rowing to move from a team sport to an individual sport. Currently, however, some V8s are invited to the NCAAs without the rest of the team when the full team doesn't deserve an invitation, which suggests that if desired, lightweight eights could be invited as single boats also. It's far from certain, by the way, that a NCAA championship would be good for lightweights, but it probably would signify an increase in popularity.

The NCAA states that to be considered for a championship 40 schools would have to sponsor lightweight rowing. As my previous research shows, well over 40 schools race lightweights, although only 30 or so lightweight V8s race. With a championship invitation at stake, however, I think the schools racing only fours would be able to find their way to racing eights. I don't think the 40 threshold is a problem.

I thought the next two answers were very interesting. The NCAA said that schools themselves determine if they have to follow NCAA rules with their lightweight programs (recruiting, etc.), depending on how the institution counts the sport. What does that mean? How CAN an institution count the sport? I suppose it refers to my next question, which asks if lightweights count for Title IX purposes. The NCAA's answer is that this is an institutional decision. I suppose that is really a trick question because, although I'm not an expert, I think that if a school is sued under Title IX, it will not be the NCAA making the determination to sue or not. Which sports count will be up to a judge or jury. Ultimately, I don't see how the NCAA has any leverage at all over a sport for which they don't offer a championship, which would suggest that lightweight programs are on their own. Nearly all varsity programs, however, follow NCAA guidelines because it would be too hard to separate out what the lightweights are doing versus what the rest of the teams are doing.

The NCAA says that it would be very complicated trying to hold other championships (men's and lightweights') with the heavy women. I really can't imagine why - a fair, well run regatta is fair and well run for everyone.

In answering the last question, the NCAA suggests that rowers care much more about winning a championship sponsored by the NCAA than one that is not. I don't understand why this would be so. People worked pretty darn hard to win championships before the NCAA and those not under the NCAA's rule still work hard to win them.

There was a lot of talk here about growing the sport, but there was never any inkling that supporting lightweight rowing might aid that growth. But then again, it's all up to the membership, isn't it?

(Gratuitous insult - when "NCAA's" is spell checked with Blogger's spellcheck, the suggested word is Nazis.)

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