By Lauren McLaughlin - NCAA.com
The host institution for the inaugural beach volleyball championship will be the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The university and Gulf Shores have also been chosen as the hosts of the 2017 championship, which will be held May 5-7, 2017.
“We are thrilled to bring the very first NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship to Gulf Shores,” said Marilyn Moniz-Kaho’ohanohano, chair of the Beach Volleyball Committee and associate athletics director at University of Hawaii Manoa. “Gulf Shores provides a location where the sport originated ocean side and will provide a great experience for our student-athletes.”
Beach volleyball is the fastest-growing NCAA sport with 47 sponsoring schools. The addition of the beach volleyball championship will become the 45th NCAA championship administered for women. The championship will have an eight-team bracket that will be played in a double-elimination format with teams consisting of five pairs of female student-athletes. After being placed on the list of emerging sports for women in 2009, beach volleyball is the fifth sport to succeed from the emerging sports program.
“We couldn’t be more excited to partner with the City of Gulf Shores, Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Sports Commission, USA Volleyball Gulf Coast Region and Hangout Music Festival Productions to host the very first NCAA championship for beach volleyball,” said Mark Ingram, director of athletics at University of Alabama at Birmingham. “This is an exciting time for the sport and for our program. We look forward to the opportunity and helping to make this a great event.”
No stranger to hosting large sporting events, Gulf Shores has hosted the AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball Championship since 2012.
“The Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Sports Commission and Tourism Offices are beyond excited to continue our relationship with the Collegiate Beach Volleyball National Championship and to begin our partnership with the NCAA,” said Beth Gendler, vice president of sales for the Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism. “Our community has been supportive of this amazing sport for the four years the AVCA has hosted its championship here, and we are proud to help place the sport in the national spotlight even more as the NCAA begins conducting this championship.”
As one of the world's leading manufacturers of high performance sports equipment the NCAA is also proud to announce that Wilson Sporting Goods Co. will provide the official ball for the beach volleyball championship as part of a three-year agreement.
“We have been a part of beach volleyball at the youth, amateur and pro levels for more than 30 years and are thrilled to see this sport move to a NCAA-sanctioned championship,” said Mike Kuehne, Wilson’s general manager. “Our new NCAA beach volleyball is reflective of our player-driven innovation process and our collaborative relationship with the NCAA and our beach volleyball advisory staff.”
The new Wilson NCAA Beach Volleyball has been designed with the insight and feedback from collegiate and professional beach volleyball players and coaches, including three-time Olympic gold medalist and Wilson advisory staff member Kerri Walsh Jennings.