The 2022 Intercollegiate Rowing Association (IRA) National Championship Regatta will include a D3 varsity men's eight in the 2022 edition of the regatta; it will be the first D3 men's national rowing championship on record.
The idea of a D3 category as part of the IRA Regatta dates back to 2015 when members of the NESCAC conference agreed to allow post-season participation in the IRA Regatta for conference members. Prior to that decision, only five D3 institutions were IRA members; after the change, that number increased to 12. Progress toward the inclusion of a D3 event has surged and waned over the past six years until recent debate and discussion over a PAC 12-sponsored proposal to have men's rowing join the NCAA revived the concept. In short, D3 inquiries about how the NCAA proposal would affect and benefit their programs resulted in the same question being asked of the IRA, leading at a rapid pace to the current proposal.
"We had reviewed the idea seriously in the past in 2015 and again in 2018-19, and it was on the agenda last January, and then went out the window when COVID-19 hit," IRA Commissioner Gary Caldwell said. "When the D3 coaches brought it up again this past fall and winter, I really took it to heart, and went to our IRA administrators to see what was possible."
IRA staff presently has "approval in principle" for the proposal now, with final ratification slated for the August 2021 Stewards meeting. Caldwell noted that some adjustments to the plan may be made at that time, but that the proposal will reliably go forward and be approved in August; that is, a D3 championship will happen in 2022.
For 2022-2024, the varsity eight will be the only D3-specific event, although even at present any IRA member school can enter the fours event, and D3 IRA member crews can and have competed in the four. Caldwell noted that, when lightweight men and women were added to the IRA docket, they started with a Varsity 8 only, adding other events over time as interest and commitment developed.
For the 2022-2024 period, a total of six schools can qualify for the event, with a required minimum field of four schools in 2022, five schools in 2023, and six schools in 2024; the minimum entry requirement is intended to ensure a robust, competitive event.
The proposal includes a qualification system in the case of more than six entries allocating the entries as shown below (the proposal also includes plans for the makeup of selection committees and similar issues, patterned fairly closely on current IRA guidelines):
As noted in the document above, several D3 schools have 'played up' to compete in the IRA, and those schools will be given the choice at the beginning of the 2021-22 membership year to declare at what level they will compete.
The full list of D3 schools that sponsor varsity men's rowing:
- Adrian College
- Bates College
- Catholic University of America
- Colby College
- Connecticut College
- Franklin and Marshall College
- Hamilton College
- Hobart College
- Ithaca College
- Lewis and Clark
- Marietta College
- Massachusetts Maritime Academy
- Milwaukee School of Engineering
- Rochester Institute of Technology
- Skidmore College
- St. John Fisher College
- St. Lawrence University
- St. Mary's MD
- State University of New York Maritime College
- Trinity College (Connecticut)
- Tufts University
- U.S. Coast Guard Academy
- Union College (New York)
- University of Puget Sound
- Washington College
- Wentworth Institute
- Wesleyan University (Connecticut)
- Williams College
- Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Hobart men's eight in the 2019 IRA