In the fall of 2019, USA Water Polo will sponsor the first-ever Division III national championship in the sport of water polo.
The Division III water polo championship is a joint effort by the Division III water polo institutions and USA Water Polo to provide Division III student-athletes with the opportunity for meaningful postseason competition in addition to offering an incentive for other Division III institutions to add the sport on a varsity level.
"This is a huge step for the sport of water polo," stated Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Executive Director Jenn Dubow. "We are very excited to work with USA Water Polo through this endeavor. Our teams are very competitive, and having a Division III national championship will help us to showcase those teams even more, and help us to grow the sport."
"USA Water Polo is proud to lead the effort in the establishment of the Collegiate Division 3 Championship," declared John Abdou - the Chief High-Performance Officer of USA Water Polo. "The collaborative efforts that brought this to fruition is a testament to the ability of our community to work together for the greater good of the sport. We believe that this event will be a catalyst for growth at the varsity level and serve as another key piece of infrastructure for water polo in America."
Beginning with men's water polo in December of 2019, and followed by women's water polo in May of 2020, two teams each from the SCIAC and the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA) will square off in a four-team Division III national championship tournament. The SCIAC will assume hosting responsibilities for both genders in the first year of the championship (2019-20). Hosting responsibilities will then rotate every other year.
Previously, teams competed in the NCAA Championships, which include NCAA Division I programs. This new championship will offer all NCAA Division III programs a competitive experience and the chance to vie for a national championship. In recognition that more Division III programs are beginning to take shape across the nation, the two goals of the Division III championship are to provide exposure for the sport so more institutions continue to add water polo and increase membership allowing water polo to be sponsored at the NCAA Division III level.
"In my discussions with athletic directors considering the addition of water polo as a varsity sport, the opportunity for a meaningful postseason championship is often a major part of their decision," explained Daniel Sharadin, the Commissioner of the CWPA. "The establishment of this championship removes a key stumbling block for these schools. In addition, it goes without saying that our Division III members are excited about the chance to compete against "like" institutions for a national championship."
"I am excited about the opportunity for a Division III National Championship for both men's and women's water polo. I have been involved in on-and-off conversations about this possibility for more than 25 years, so it is great to see it come to fruition," stated Tom Whittemore, Head Men's Water Polo Coach at the University of Redlands. "A big thank you to John Abdou of USA Water Polo, Jenn Dubow of the SCIAC, Dan Sharadin of the CWPA, and the many others who worked to put this opportunity together. It will be an exciting competitive opportunity for the student-athletes, and a springboard for the growth of our sport at the collegiate level."
The overall hope of this endeavor is to grow the sport of water polo at the Division III level to the point that the NCAA adds a Division III Championship, similar to men's volleyball.
The teams that are eligible for the Division III national championship are as follows:
men's programs include Austin College, Caltech, Cal Lutheran, Chapman, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS), Connecticut College, Johns Hopkins, La Verne, MIT, Millikin (starts in two years), Monmouth College, Occidental, Penn. State Behrend, Pomona-Pitzer, Redlands, Washington & Jefferson, and Whittier.
women's programs include Austin, Caltech, Cal Lutheran, Carthage, Chapman, CMS, Connecticut College, Grove City, La Verne, Macalester, Millikin (starts in two years), Monmouth, Occidental, Penn. State Behrend, Pomona-Pitzer, Redlands, Utica, Washington & Jefferson, Whittier, and Wittenberg.