Posted by Kassy Perry

New programs increase number of women’s intercollegiate athletics teams to 16, reinforce UC Davis’ history of leadership in women’s athletics

DAVIS, Calif. – A comprehensive selection process, which began in November, concluded on Friday when UC Davis Athletics announced the addition of women’s beach volleyball and women’s equestrian as its new varsity sports. By adding these two programs, UC Davis will now sponsor 16 women’s intercollegiate athletics teams.

This is the latest example of the University’s history of leadership in women’s athletics and its commitment to Title IX compliance.

“UC Davis has been a leader in the growth of women’s sports throughout our history, especially under the guidance of pioneers like Marya Welch and Pam Gill-Fisher. With the support of Chancellor May, we are honored to uphold that tradition today by adding beach volleyball and equestrian to our intercollegiate athletics program,” said Director of Athletics Kevin Blue.

UC Davis complies with Title IX by providing varsity athletics participation opportunities for female and male student-athletes that are substantially proportional to the percentage of female and male students that comprise the undergraduate student body – otherwise known as “Prong One” compliance.

In 2011-2012, the year prior to launching the 2020 Initiative, the undergraduate population at UC Davis was 55.1% women and 44.9% men. By 2016-2017, undergraduate proportionality changed to 59.4% women and 40.6% men. The number of varsity athletics opportunities for female student-athletes had not changed as swiftly, which is why UC Davis is increasing opportunities by adding two women’s teams.

For more than five months, a campus working group thoroughly gathered and analyzed information about candidate teams before making a recommendation to Chancellor Gary S. May, which he subsequently approved. The process included a survey that generated nearly 600 responses and a public meeting.

A summary of the process followed by the working group, including an assessment of how beach volleyball and equestrian met the previously published selection criteria — number of participation opportunities, philanthropic support, competitive opportunity, and conference affiliation —is available at this link. 

A notable highlight of the group’s analysis is the finding that adding both beach volleyball and equestrian was an effective way to ensure that UC Davis is able to meet Title IX proportionality requirements far into the future.

These teams will begin operations during the 2018-19 academic year.

Gifts to support each new program are being solicited from new donors, which ensures that these sports are launched in a manner that ensures long-term competitive and financial stability.

Beach Volleyball

With more than 50 Division I institutions across the country adding beach volleyball over the last 10 years, UC Davis is now the seventh school to compete in this Big West Conference-sponsored sport.

“Given our geographic footprint, the Big West Conference has been a leader in the growth of collegiate beach volleyball. The addition of a beach volleyball team at UC Davis is a natural fit,” said Big West Conference commissioner Dennis Farrell.

Planning will begin immediately for a new training and competition facility to be constructed on campus, thanks to a generous gift from an alum and donor who prefers to remain anonymous.

Dan Connors will oversee both the indoor and beach volleyball teams as the director of volleyball. A national search will be initiated immediately to hire a beach volleyball head coach.


Considered an emerging sport by the NCAA, the UC Davis equestrian team will compete nationally under the governance of the National Collegiate Equestrian Association (NCEA) against other large public schools like Fresno State, Georgia, and Texas A&M.

A unique aspect of the equestrian team will be its partnership with the School of Veterinary Medicine and the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences – both regarded as world-leaders in teaching and research in their respective fields.

“We are very excited about the addition of a varsity equestrian team. This program will add another interesting dimension to the equine education and research activities that take place in our world-renown animal science program,” said Dr. Helene Dillard, dean of the UC Davis College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Dr. Michael Lairmore, dean of the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, added the following: “We look forward to ensuring that the equine athletes receive superb medical care from our world-leading clinicians and students, and anticipate collaborating with the varsity equestrian team in multiple ways that strengthen the leadership of UC Davis in equine health.”

UC Davis is currently in the midst of a capital campaign to build a state-of-the-art equine performance center.

The equestrian team will also work closely with Campus Recreation, the university organization that manages the UC Davis Equestrian Center. “The equestrian center has been part of UC Davis since 1962, and the addition of a varsity equestrian team will further enhance what the program and facility are able to offer to our students,” said Deb Johnson, the director of Campus Recreation.

Donors have already extended support to the program and the University is actively seeking additional gifts. During competition, equestrian teams use horses that are provided by the host institution. Horses that are part of collegiate equestrian programs are often gifted to universities.

A national search for a head coach will begin immediately.

In addition to beach volleyball and equestrian, other women’s teams include basketball, cross country, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming & diving, tennis, indoor track & field, outdoor track & field, volleyball and water polo.