(Ed. Note: an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that 2026 might be the final year of a D2 Championship for Rowing, but the legislation goes into effect 8/1/24, making 2027 the last year of the grace period)
The fifteen D2 Women's rowing teams learned in January that their championship may be discontinued after 2027, due to new legislation passed at the 2024 NCAA Convention.
D2 requires a certain number of schools to sponsor each sport in order to maintain a D2 Championship and while Women's Rowing has always been below the threshold, an exemption for Olympic Sports along with Men's and Women's Lacrosse, had allowed Rowing to qualify for a championship.
While the new policy would lower the minimum sponsorship to 35 schools and makes that threshold equitable across men's and women's sports, at 15 schools D2 Women's Rowing currently falls 20 programs short of the requirement. The new legislation, sponsored by the D2 Presidents Council and passed overwhelmingly in a vote by delegates from the 312 D2 institutions, eliminates that exemption, putting D2 Women's Rowing into a three-year grace period during which the sport must add D2 schools or lose its championship.
The legislation takes effect on August 1, 2024, making the 2027 potentially the final year for the D2 Championship.
Women's Rowing is the only sport with a D2 Championship which does not meet the new threshold, since lacrosse and other sports once helped by the exemption policy now have enough schools to continue their respective championships.
The NCAA press release can be read in full here, but it makes no mention of the single sport affected by the vote.
The three-year grace period does grant time for the schools affected time to generate support for a counterproposal or for the sport to add enough new programs to meet the requirement, but the recent trend for growth in D2 has been mixed.
Dominican University in New York added the sport in 2021, and the Nova Southeastern program was reinstated after being "paused indefinitely" in 2020 during COVID, but the Florida Tech's women's team remains a club after that school's decision in 2022 to cut both of its rowing teams. In FIT's case, the men were able to secure a preliminary injunction in a Title IX lawsuit, but the women's team has yet to be reinstated.
As things currently stand, the legislation provides ample cover for a school to discontinue its rowing program and the 2027 D2 Women's Rowing Championship will be the last unless twenty D2 schools add rowing or a majority of the 297 D2 institutions without rowing can be persuaded to vote for these rowers instead of against them.
The fifteen teams impacted by this legislation are: