No sport has been more prominent in the United States than beach volleyball, but its future in the United States is in danger.
Short version: If you go to the NCAA beach volleyball championships on Saturday, you will not see any players with local ties. A dispute between the National Collegiate Athletic Association and USA Volleyball has prompted the NCAA to cut its beach volleyball championships from more than just one day to just one day. In the eyes of the NCAA, the sport is not in good enough shape to continue as an NCAA competition. “We certainly wanted to help in any way that we could,” said Deems Jones, the NCAA’s executive director. “All we’re trying to do is to get back to a competitive tournament.”
The lack of NCAA participants is doubly troubling because of the Olympics, which use the championships as qualifying events. In men’s and women’s competition, one of the big moments comes when an Olympic champion is selected after the NCAA championships.
Meanwhile, the future of the tournament is not easy to predict.
“It’s a little scary,” said Seiya Suzuki, who was from Washington and raised in California. He is the highest-ranked American beach volleyball player. “It’s just an honor playing in front of home fans, it’s a big deal,” he said. “I don’t even think USA Volleyball or me knew the impact that USA beach volleyball would have in the future. We didn’t even know what beach volleyball was and now we know how big of a deal it is.”
For now, USA Volleyball’s long-term perspective appears to be a little clearer. “We’ve sort of stepped back and said, ‘what does this do to us as an organization?’ ” said Chris Peterson, USA Volleyball’s executive director. “Do we want to do it every year? I’m not sure. We’re going to live with whatever our partners have told us that we are permitted to do or not do.”