It's time for the NCAA to step into the sand   

Updated: April 21, 2009, 3:13 PM ET

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. -- A quick scan of the Sunday paper told me Boston maxed out at 48 degrees Saturday, and Chicago managed to hit 62, while thunderstorms rained down on Texas and the Rockies remained powdered with snow.

Where I am, the weather is hot -- wish you were here.

Summer sneaked up on Southern California this past weekend, with temps tickling the 90s for the first time. You know what that means in my house -- beach volleyball. And right on cue, the AVP Pro Beach Volleyball Tour made its first stop of the season in the Golden State.

USC Volleyball

Jon Gaede for

USC was among the schools that fielded teams in Riverside this weekend.

The city of Riverside hosted its first AVP tournament this weekend. And because sand was dumped atop convention center asphalt to create courts in a city about 50 miles away from shore (and breeze), the weekend's action literally sizzled beneath the sunshine.

That said, the 97-degree heat was no match for an even hotter happening -- a sneak peek at college coeds taking to the sand.

You see, alongside the pros was The Alt Games: Collegiate Beach Volleyball Championship. Top female tandems from eight universities across the land took aim at the title -- the third straight year collegiate athletes have volleyed in this event.

No. 3 Nebraska (NCAA indoor volleyball ranking), No. 4 Texas, No. 7 Hawaii, No. 13 USC, No. 16 Utah, No. 19 San Diego, North Carolina and hometown UC Riverside competed for top honors. In the end, USC took home the trophy as the women of Troy dominated the beach.

On Saturday afternoon, you could find your reigning Olympic men's gold medalists, Todd Rogers and Phil Dalhausser, battling back through the AVP loser's bracket on a secondary court, while the stadium watched Southern Cal's Jessica Gysin and Alex Jupiter defeat Nebraska's Sydney Anderson and Tara Mueller in the college finals.

This just might be a sunny sign of what's to come.

On Monday, representatives from NCAA Division I conferences will vote on a measure to make sand volleyball an official, sanctioned scholarship sport. If the measure passes, the sport would have one year to develop programs and commence official competition in 2011.

Not that my plea will carry any clout at the eleventh hour, but I must reiterate, there is no better time to give the sport of volleyball a shot in the arm, and nothing could do it like putting the college game in the sun.

Texas Volleyball

Mary Buckheit

Don't you think collegiate sand volleyball would draw fans?

Women's indoor volleyball is enjoying significant momentum after the 2008 NCAA title game between national champion Penn State and runner-up Nebraska, which was played in front of an NCAA-record crowd of 17,430 people. Although the details of sand volleyball on campus are still to be decided, it's expected that if the measure passes, most indoor-team players would compete in the fall season in addition to the spring's sand season. I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- piggyback the sport out of the gymnasium and into the sand! It's a no-brainer. College + sand + sun + tailgates = ta-da! -- people caring about volleyball.

Kerri Walsh and Misty May-Treanor -- the two best things ever to happen to volleyball, and the only names associated with the sport a "man on the street" might know -- are home on the ranch polishing their gold medals, making babies and spending some well-deserved time out of the spotlight. King Karch Kiraly and his hot-pink visor are retired, and although tons of men's talent is in circulation, I would wager that the average person has zero knowledge of men's volleyball, save for Maverick, Goose, Iceman and Slider's epic shirtless match. (To the tune of Kenny Loggins' "Playing With the Boys," of course.)

The sport needs collegiate sand volleyball. Shoot, wouldn't it be entertaining? And wouldn't it be great if young people across the country engaged in the sport?

As the voters mull over the possibilities today, let's hope the sun comes out tomorrow.

Mary Buckheit is a Page 2 columnist. She can be reached at


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