TAMPA, Fla. - The University of Tampa has announced that it will add women's beach volleyball as a varsity NCAA sport, with competition beginning in Spring 2018.
The UT athletic department will now offer a total of 20 NCAA-sponsored sports, including eight men's and 12 women's programs. Additionally, UT offers varsity cheerleading and dance along with junior varsity baseball and lacrosse.
The beach volleyball team, which will consist of 15-20 student-athletes, will play its matches on campus at the new Fitness and Recreation Center (http://www.ut.edu/fitnesscenter), which currently includes two outdoor beach volleyball courts.
UT Director of Athletics Larry Marfise said beach volleyball will provide additional opportunities for student-athletes to participate in intercollegiate athletics. "This will also provide leadership opportunities for more individuals, continuing the tradition of producing well-rounded graduates who continue to represent the University in their respective careers."
Jeff Lamm, UT's assistant women's indoor volleyball coach for the last 15 years, has been named the head coach of the Spartans' newest sport. The 2011 AVCA National Assistant Coach of the Year has been part of a program that has registered a 545-64 record with a .895 winning percentage. With Lamm on staff, the Spartans have won 14 Sunshine State Conference (SSC) championships and produced 11 NCAA Elite Eight teams along with the 2006 and 2014 national championships.
"It is my goal to build the beach program into another nationally competitive program here at UT," Lamm said. "I'm eager to return to beach volleyball, which is where I started my volleyball career back in 1992."
Beach volleyball is the fastest-growing NCAA sport with 50 schools sponsoring it as of January 2015. NCAA rules require 40 sponsoring institutions to request an NCAA championship. Data shows that on average, 60 percent of participants at a sponsoring school participate only in beach volleyball, not in both beach and indoor volleyball.
Florida universities with beach volleyball that UT will likely compete against include Florida Atlantic, Florida Gulf Coast, Florida International, Florida State, Jacksonville, Stetson and North Florida. Currently, Eckerd College is the only other SSC member to offer beach volleyball. Florida Southern College has also announced the addition of the sport for the 2017-18 season.
Team competitions consist of five pairs of players competing in two out of three sets, with the first team to win three of the five matches as the winner. On average, a single match lasts 35-50 minutes. The NCAA does not plan to name individual or pair champions in beach volleyball, as a team champion is crowned following the championships segment at the conclusion of the season.
In 2009, Division I and Division II members named beach volleyball an emerging sport for women, supported by the NCAA Committee on Women's Athletics. The American Volleyball Coaches Association has conducted a collegiate beach volleyball tournament since 2012 and did so until the NCAA championship in 2016.
UT Spartan athletics provides opportunities for over 600 student-athletes and has won 15 national championships. It has also won approximately 60 conference titles since 2000.