USA Water Polo Division III National Championship Set to Begin in 2019-20

A beneficiary of DIII Championships will be Pomona-Pitzer men's & women's program & Head Coach Alex Rodriguez. Photo Courtesy: Pomona-Pitzer Athletics

Editor’s Note: In a joint announcement, the Collegiate Water Polo Association, the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletics Conference (SCIAC) and USA Water Polo announced today the creation of separate men’s and women’s Division III water polo championships beginning in December, 2019. This is welcome news for a sport that has witnessed a decided increase in interest and participation at all levels, and among DIII programs in particular. The latest example of this growth was the announcement last November that Millikin University in Illinois would add men’s and women’s polo. 

Following is the press release announcing the creation of these two tournaments:

In the Fall of 2019, USA Water Polo will sponsor the first-ever Division III national championship in the sport of water polo.

The Division III water polo championship is a joint effort by the Division III water polo institutions and USA Water Polo to provide Division III student-athletes the opportunity for a meaningful postseason competition in addition to offering an incentive for other Division III institutions to add the sport on a varsity level.

“This is a huge step for the sport of water polo,” stated Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Executive Director Jenn Dubow. “We are very excited to work with USA Water Polo through this endeavor. Our teams are very competitive, and having a Division III national championship will help us to showcase those teams even more, and help us to grow the sport.”


Photo Courtesy: USAWP

“USA Water Polo is proud to lead the effort in the establishment of the Collegiate Division 3 Championship,” declared John Abdou – the Chief High Performance Officer of USA Water Polo. “The collaborative efforts that brought this to fruition is a testament to the ability of our community to work together for the greater good of the sport. We believe that this event will be a catalyst for growth at the varsity level and serve as another key piece of infrastructure for water polo in America.”

Beginning with men’s water polo in December of 2019, and followed by women’s water polo in May of 2020, two teams from both the SCIAC and the Collegiate Water Polo Association (CWPA), will square off in a four-team Division III national championship tournament. The SCIAC will assume hosting responsibilities for both genders in the first year of the championship (2019-20). Hosting responsibilities will then rotate every other year.

Previously, teams competed in the NCAA Championship Tournament which includes Division I programs. This new championship will provide all Division III programs a competitive experience and the chance to vie for a national championship. In recognition that more Division III programs are beginning to take shape across the nation, the two goals of the Division III championship are to provide exposure for the sport so more institutions continue to add water polo and increase membership allowing water polo to be sponsored at the NCAA Division III level.

“In my discussions with athletic directors considering the addition of water polo as a varsity sport, the opportunity for a meaningful postseason championship is often a major part of their decision,” explained Daniel Sharadin, the Commissioner of the CWPA. “The establishment of this championship removes a key stumbling block for these schools. In addition, it goes without saying that our Division III members are excited about the chance to compete against “like” institutions for a national championship.”

Oct 14, 2018; Baltimore, MD, USA; Monmouth Fighting Scots center Jesus Aguirre (21) fires a shot as Austin College 'Roos center Alex Rodriguez (8) and attacker Andrew Pope (2) apply pressure at the Newton White Athletic Center Natatorium. Greg Bartram/betterImage

Last November four Eastern DIII teams competed for a title BUT adding the West makes a huge difference. Photo Courtesy: Greg Bartram

“Growing the sport and creating a Division III national championship experience for our student-athletes is the top priority for the SCIAC and its coaches,” added Pomona-Pitzer men’s and women’s water polo head coach Alex Rodriguez. “The model for this championship was created from the experience of men’s volleyball and the Molten Division III Invitational.”

The overall hope of this endeavor is to grow the sport of water polo at the Division III level to the point that the NCAA adds a Division III Championship, similar to men’s volleyball.

The teams that are eligible for the Division III national championship are as follows:

Men’s programs include Austin College, Caltech, Cal Lutheran, Chapman, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS), Connecticut College, Johns Hopkins, La Verne, MIT, Millikin (starts in two years), Monmouth College, Occidental, Penn. State Behrend, Pomona-Pitzer, Redlands, Washington & Jefferson and Whittier.

Women’s programs include Austin, Caltech, Cal Lutheran, Carthage, Chapman, CMS, Connecticut College, Grove City, La Verne, Macalester, Millikin (starts in two years), Monmouth, Occidental, Penn. State Behrend, Pomona-Pitzer, Redlands, Utica, Washington & Jefferson, Whittier and Wittenberg.

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