NCAA expands for May’s Beach Volleyball Championships

NCAA expands field to 16 teams for this May’s Beach Volleyball Championships in Gulf Shores
The National Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship Tourney will expand from eight to 16 teams beginning with this May’s tourney in Gulf Shores.
The NCAA Women’s Beach Volleyball Committee made the recommendation to bring all 16 teams to Gulf Shore for the 2022 championship, with the first round beginning May 3. The committee also will implement automatic qualification for those conferences meeting the requirements. The selection criteria for the rest of the field and the tourney’s bracketology format for years beyond 2022 have yet to be determined.
Also still to be determined for the 2022 bracket expansion will be the process for determining conference automatic-qualifications, at-large selection criteria and the overall format of the tournament and related logistics.
Under the current format, three schools are chosen from the eastern portion of the country and three schools from the West. The final two spots in the bracket are at-large.
There are currently 86 NCAA athletics programs that sponsor beach volleyball. The proposed expansion would allow 19 percent of those to compete for a national championship.
There is no doubt that the continued growth of the sport since reaching championship status from a list of emerging sports factored into the decision to expand.
Under the format, all 16 teams would travel to the finals in Gulf Shores, and compete in the first round in a single-elimination format on May 4. The eight teams that advance would compete in a double-elimination format starting May 6.
In addition to doubling the number of teams in the championship tourney, the committee will continue to review selection criteria teams that don’t earn automatic conference qualifications for the rest of the field. That recommendation is expected to be released in early January.
The committee plans to review and discuss the best bracket format for 2023 and beyond, with primary goals that include growing the sport, supporting the schools that have made commitments to beach volleyball and providing a memorable postseason experience for the student-athletes.
After a one year COVID-19 induced hiatus, the NCAA Beach Volleyball Championship returned to Gulf Shores last May, with Southern Cal powering their way past UCLA in the final. Florida State was the runner-up in two of the four NCAA sanctioned championships in Gulf Shores.
The live audience was limited to player families and officials. Those two California schools each won two of the first four beach volleyball championships conducted as an NCAA fully sanctioned sport. All of the tourneys were held in Gulf Shores.
ESPN has a contract to broadcast the tourney through 2022. Gulf Shores will also host the tourney in 2022 and 2023. It then moves to Huntington Beach in California for two years. Gulf Shores will surely put in a bid to host future the tourney permanently beginning in 2026.
California has made girls’ beach volleyball a sanctioned high school sport, following in the footsteps of Arizona, the first state to do so. Seven NCAA Division I conferences sponsor beach volleyball: Atlantic Sun (7 members), Big West (7 members), Coastal Collegiate Sports Assn. (12 members), Ohio Valley (6 members), Pac-12 (9 members), Southland (9 members), and West Coast (7 members).
The minimum number of participating teams for a conference to qualify for an automatic bid to other NCAA championship tournaments is six.
NCAA Beach Volleyball Timeline
• November 2011: Gulf Shores selected as the site for the first AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball National Championships April 27-‐29, 2012.
• March 3, 2012: Florida State and University of Alabama at Birmingham play in first collegiate sand volleyball dual match.
• April 27–29, 2012: The 2012 AVCA Collegiate Sand Volleyball Championship debuts in Gulf Shores with both a team championship for the top four women’s sand teams and a pairs championship consisting of the top 16 collegiate doubles teams. Pepperdine wins the inaugural championship, and the event is televised by CBS Sports Network.
• November 2012: Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Sports Commission awarded the AVCA Sand Volleyball Collegiate National Championships for three more years.
• May 2013: Long Beach State wins the second AVCA Collegiate Beach National Championship and USC win the Pairs Championship in Gulf Shores.
• September 2015: NCAA Sand Volleyball officially recognized as an NCAA sport, and the name goes from sand volleyball to beach volleyball.
• April 2016: Turner Sports agrees to telecast the inaugural NCAA Women’s Beach Volleyball Championship Game live.
• May 2, 2016: USC defeats Florida State 3-0 to win the first ever NCAA sanctioned Beach Volleyball Championship at Gulf Shores Public Beach.
• May 2017: USC beats Pepperdine 3-2 in the title match to repeat as NCAA Beach Volleyball Champion.
• December 2017: The NCAA and ESPN reach a multiyear agreement to telecast the championship through 2022.
• May 2, 2018: UCLA defeats Florida State 3-1 to win the NCAA Brach Volleyball Championship at Gulf Shores Public Beach.
• May 2019: UCLA defeats USC 3-2 to repeat as NCAA Beach Volleyball Champion at Gulf Shores Public Beach.

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Final 2021 NCAA Beach Volleyball Standings
If the expanded format was in place during the 2021 NCAA National Beach Volleyball Championship in Gulf Shores, 16 of the top 20 schools listed below would have been invited.
1. USC
2. UCLA
3. Loyola Marymount
4. LSU
5. Florida State
6. Cal Poly
7. Stanford
8. TCU
9. Grand Canyon
10. Arizona
11 Cal
12. FAU
13. Hawai’i
14. Pepperdine
15. FIU
16. South Carolina
17. Georgia State
18. Stetson
19. Long Beach State
20. North Florida

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