Beach volleyball set to become Texas’ newest varsity sport

Nicholas Pannes, General Sports Reporter

The University of Texas at Austin announced plans to make women’s beach volleyball its newest varsity sport in a Tuesday news release.

Beach volleyball will become the school’s 21st varsity sport and is the first new sport introduced at Texas since women’s rowing was added in 1997.

The beach volleyball program will pursue a limited schedule in spring 2023 before becoming a fully-sanctioned varsity sport in 2024. The program will be overseen by volleyball head coach Jerritt Elliott and will include the same coaching and departmental staff used for indoor volleyball. 

Establishing a beach volleyball team allows the volleyball program to develop into a year-round sport, with athletes able to compete in the spring in addition to the fall indoor schedule.

“We’ve been discussing this for a while and are thrilled to be adding this fast-paced and exciting sport to our athletics programs,” Texas athletics director Chris Del Conte said in the announcement. “Year-round competition in a sport that attracts some of the best student-athletes in the country will be an invaluable resource for Coach Elliott and our (v)olleyball program, while enhancing our athletics program overall.”

Elliott also noted the synergistic effects this union could have for both sports as he oversees the startup of the new spring sport.

“This is another great opportunity to build and expand our brand of Texas (v)olleyball,” Elliott said. “Having it alongside our indoor team will be a great addition to our program in so many ways. Spring competition and (beach volleyball) will bring added exposure, enhance recruiting and the opportunity to bring in even more elite student-athletes in our sport. It also will provide additional training opportunities along with some exciting volleyball events and competitions in the years to come.”

Elliott’s strong recruiting at Texas has been a crucial factor in his tenure as the winningest head coach in Texas volleyball history, leading the team to a 533-109 record in his first 21 seasons at the helm. In that time, Texas has won 13 Big 12 Championships and one national championship.

In order for a university to be Title IX compliant, it must provide participation opportunities for women and men that are substantially proportionate to their respective rates of enrollment as full-time undergraduate students.

In 2003, female student representation at the University broke 50% for the first time in its history. Since then, female matriculation has continued to increase. Latest statistics for fall 2021 showed 55.3% of Texas students are female.

Adding another women’s varsity sport now gives Texas the framework to maintain Title IX compliance for the foreseeable future, especially if the program provides scholarships of its own.

Beach volleyball first became a sanctioned NCAA sport in 2009, with the first national championship awarded in 2016 to USC. A popular sport on the west coast, USC and UCLA are the only two teams to have won national championships. There are currently 64 Division I schools with beach volleyball programs.