If media coverage is any indicator, football is the only college sport under way for the 2010-2011 academic year. But the volleyball -- indoor volleyball, that is -- season has also started. College volleyball fans and aspiring players may have more opportunity to take in the sport in future years if schools take up the NCAA's newest "emerging" sport, sand volleyball.
Sand volleyball -- better known as beach volleyball, has gained in popularity thanks to players like Misty May and Kerry Walsh. Coverage and marketing of the sport has been criticized, however, for using players' sexual attractiveness to attract spectators (and rightly so: one study found that almost 40% of televised shots of players were of chests and buttocks).
NCAA member schools have the opportunity, now that the NCAA has approved the sport, to offer it for intercollegiate competition. But it's difficult to know whether they will. The AVP -- the professional tour for beach volleyball in the U.S. and the pipeline for Olympic players -- announced in mid-August that it was closing shop.
What will this mean for U.S. prospects at the London Olympics in 2012? It's hard to say, but the most talented, experienced players will likely still make a good showing for the U.S. as they stay active in international play.
The bigger question -- depending on how long it takes for the AVP to revive itself financially -- is in the implications for the development of young talent and interest in the sport. The NCAA's approval of sand volleyball as an emerging sport will likely keep the pipeline open, depending on the number of schools that choose to pursue it.
In light of past marketing strategies for beach volleyball, it will also be interesting to watch how the sport will be covered and promoted at the college level. --Marie Hardin