Velonews: Collegiate Cycling Goes Varsity


Jan 3, 2005
<figure ><img title="Collegiate cyclocross nationals" src=""/><p>Lees-McRae is a top collegiate team, despite its school's small enrollment. Photo: Caley Fretz | (File).</p></figure><p>Collegiate nationals will remove its long-standing division I and division II categories in favor of varsity and club races beginning at mountain bike nationals in the fall of 2016, USA Cycling announced Tuesday.</p>
<p>The change comes following a rapid bloom in collegiate varsity programs — led by schools like Fort Lewis College, Marian University, and Lees McRae — over the last decade, and is a result of the increasing gulf in resources between these well-funded programs and the club teams upon which collegiate cycling was originally built.</p>
<p>“This change allows the growth of varsity to stand on its own, rather than at the expense of the club teams,” USA Cycling said in a statement on its website.</p>
<p>Previously, schools were placed into DI or DII based on school size, with exemptions made for small but competitive programs, schools that will likely see varsity designation next year, to move into the higher division.</p>
<p>USA Cycling’s oversight of varsity programs is set to expand, and the governing body will better define what attributes qualify a program for varsity status. The definition will lean heavily on organization and support, rather than competitiveness, according to the statement.</p>
<p>There are currently 17 varsity programs, and seven more described by USA Cycling as “emerging.” USAC Collegiate, the arm of USA Cycling responsible for the management of collegiate cycling, estimates that it will have 30 varsity programs by the time the new structure is implemented.</p>
<p>Varsity programs often come out of smaller schools, those without expensive football or basketball programs, which see cycling as a way to attract high-quality students. Success on the national level has successfully put schools like Lees McRae, which enrolls about 1,000 students, on the national map.</p>
<p>Collegiate cycling is an increasingly important talent pipeline for American professionals. Ted King, now retired, raced for his Middlebury collegiate team; cyclocross star Amanda Miller raced for Colorado State University; U.S. worlds team member Coryn Rivera is about to finish a degree at Marian. As programs increase funding, organization, and support for student athletes, that pipeline only becomes more powerful.</p>
<p>USA Cycling has not yet worked out all of the details of the new system, including how the varsity/club designations will trickle into regular-season conference racing. The governing body is soliciting comments: <a href="mailto:[email protected]">[email protected]</a>.</p>
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