“Cal Poly Men’s Volleyball are the NCAA champions of the season!”
Unfortunately, this is something no Cal Poly student has ever said or heard.
Why is this, you may ask? Because surprisingly, Cal Poly does not have a men’s volleyball team. Why not? Is it due to a lack of student interest? The social stigma that volleyball is a “women’s” sport? Or, is it perhaps simply a matter of a lack of funds?
I don’t have any personal connection to volleyball. I am not a passionate volleyball player, nor have I ever been a committed fan in the stands. But when I heard the Cal Poly women’s team was undefeated and recently beat the number-two nationally ranked team at the University of Hawaii, I immediately wanted to see how the men’s team was doing. To my surprise, I learned that Cal Poly has no official men’s volleyball team. We only have a club team, which is far more casual than any D1 team and is responsible for its own financing and organization. Nationwide, there are 22 Division 1, 24 Division II and 68 Division III volleyball programs for men. Cal Poly is not one of them.
There is no good reason for this deficiency in campus sports — volleyball is one of the fastest-growing sports in NCAA history. If you have ever watched the summer Olympics, you probably noticed how much coverage volleyball receives on network television. The United States’ team has been successful in recent years, earning medals in women’s and men’s indoor and beach volleyball. Cal Poly already has a successful women’s department. The program behind the women’s team already has the court, the net, the poles, the referee stands and the balls. It seems that, with an audience and equipment already secured, all a men’s team would need is some players, uniforms and a coach.
Some people may argue that men’s volleyball is not as popular as women’s, but this simply isn’t true. Cal Poly men’s club volleyball is as popular as it is successful. The team plays at a prestigious level despite its “club” status. Last year, the Cal Poly men’s club team placed second in the country. A lot of these players had the opportunity to play D1 volleyball elsewhere, but overrode that chance to stay at Cal Poly and focus on their studies.
Title IX funding for a new men’s team may also be difficult to secure. Title IX addresses, among other things, college sports — specifically, the idea that the amount of money spent on men and women’s sports should be equal. Men’s sports include football, which has the potential to consume almost 50 percent of a university’s funding and scholarships due the large size of teams. Women’s teams typically do not have as large of programs. With no flagship program, the women’s teams can share their funding more evenly. For example, Cal Poly does not have a women’s football team consuming a large quantity of the women’s athletics budget. Essentially, most of the money for men’s athletics goes to the most popular sports. This is why, at most schools, there simply isn’t enough money for a men’s volleyball program.
The popularity of not only women’s D1 but also men’s club volleyball indicates that establishing a men’s D1 program would benefit Cal Poly, however. There is school-wide support for the undefeated women’s team. Both the women’s D1 and men’s club team generate publicity, ticket sales and school spirit. The attention towards women’s sports seems to be evenly spread among all sports teams, with heavy skewing of interest only in certain sports. But for the men, the attention is heavily focused on certain areas and then forgotten in others.
You might be thinking, “Well, why isn’t the club team enough?”
Our men’s club volleyball players have the talent and drive to play at a higher level. The student fans have the passion to support their school team and be present at sports events. Creating a men’s D1 team, one level higher than club (at the NCAA level), will increase school publicity and spirit, as well as generate income from ticket sales for Cal Poly athletics.
If the Cal Poly athletics program chose to create a D1 team, it is likely a lot of student athletes and fans would support the decision. The Cal Poly women’s D1 and the men’s club volleyball teams are both performing exceptionally well and gaining popularity among fans. The only thing missing is a men’s NCAA-regulated team. We should establish a men’s team now while there is already so much public support for it. The demand for a Cal Poly men’s volleyball is there — it simply needs to be met.