SAINT LEO, Fla. -- Saint Leo University will add beach volleyball to its intercollegiate athletics program, with competition to begin in Spring 2018.
One of the fastest growing sports among NCAA institutions, beach volleyball will be Saint Leo's 20th intercollegiate sport and its 11th offering in women's athletics.
"The addition of beach volleyball will provide additional opportunities for women to compete in the Green and Gold for Saint Leo University and is a natural fit for Saint Leo athletics," said Francis X. Reidy, Saint Leo's athletics director. "Between our location in Florida and the strength of our existing indoor volleyball program, I believe beach volleyball has a bright future here at Saint Leo."
Sam Cibrone, currently the Lions' head volleyball coach, will move into a new role as Director of Volleyball. An additional full-time assistant coach will be added for the new beach volleyball program, while current Assistant Coach Carlos Ramos will work exclusively with Saint Leo's 2017 Sunshine State Conference champion indoor volleyball program.
"Being a beach volleyball player for the last 20 years, I am so excited that Saint Leo has chosen to adopt beach volleyball as our 20th sport," said Cibrone. "I think this sport is one of the best sports out there as it combines team play with individual skills. I believe this sport will be of the most watched among all NCAA sports due to the Olympic coverage and people's appeal to the beach."
"I feel so blessed to be Saint Leo's Director of Volleyball, so I can impact the indoor and outdoor games. I love both sports – both the excitement they provide with the differences between the two of them."
The university will immediately commence construction of a five-court complex on a portion of the intramural field adjacent to the Saint Leo Tennis Center. This complex will benefit not only the beach volleyball program, but the university's intramurals program as well. There will also be opportunities to host youth, club, and collegiate events at the new beach volleyball complex, generating revenue and exposure for the university and the beach volleyball program.
"This new complex will immediately place us among an elite group in terms of the facility and playing opportunities we can offer our student-athletes in beach volleyball," said Cibrone. "I believe Florida State is the only other program in the state of Florida that at present has a five-court complex."
The growth of beach volleyball has skyrocketed in recent years since it was first approved as an "emerging sport" by the NCAA in 2009. At the time, data showed that more than 200,000 females ages 6-17 played beach volleyball, and more than 60 percent competed exclusively in the sport rather than indoor volleyball.
At the start of the 2016-17 academic year, a total of 66 NCAA member institutions had either added the sport or announced their intention to do so. The NCAA added a national collegiate championship for beach volleyball as its 90th championship in January 2015, after a target of 40 institutions had added the sport.
Eckerd College is currently the only member of the Sunshine State Conference to offer beach volleyball; however, both the University of Tampa and Florida Southern College have announced their intention to add the sport for Spring 2018.
Within Florida, a total of 10 institutions competed in beach volleyball during the 2017 season: Eckerd College, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Florida Gulf Coast, Florida State, Jacksonville, Stetson, North Florida, Webber International, and Warner.
The recommendation to add beach volleyball was made by the university's Gender Equity Committee, and approved by University President Dr. William J. Lennox Jr.
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