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Tuesday, April 23
The Indiana Daily Student

water polo

Water polo continues as IU's only non Big Ten varsity sport

Water Polo vs. Hartwick

On May 1, the women’s water polo team defeated rival No. 6 Michigan 5-3 in the Collegiate Water Polo Association Eastern Championship to earn the team its second NCAA Tournament berth.

The experience might not have happened for them had it not been for three players almost two decades ago.

Eighteen years ago, Amy Pankoke, Maryann Lekas and Natasha Kuberski spent fall semester 1993 playing on the men’s water polo club team. The following spring, they started the women’s water polo club team. They played as a club team for four years before earning an opportunity to become a varsity sport, Coach Barry King said.

“In November 1996, the officers of the club were invited to make a presentation to a committee in the athletics department regarding the addition of a female varsity sport,” King wrote in an email. “Four club teams were invited: water polo, field hockey, rowing and lacrosse. Of the four, water polo was added first, for the 1997-98 academic year.”

King coached the team for three years when it was at club status, and he was promoted to head coach when the team made the leap to varsity status.

In the Big Ten, aside from the Hoosiers, only the University of Michigan has women’s water polo as a varsity sport. This causes confusion, King said.

“Fans and supporters of Indiana Athletics understand the Big Ten,” he said. “They are not sure what the Collegiate Water Polo Association is, though.”

That is not the case in Ann Arbor, head coach Matt Anderson said.

“Our supporters understand what the CWPA is largely because we have our hockey team in the CCHA. Our lacrosse team (in the CCLA) are not members of the Big Ten,” he said. “They understand it’s a different conference and it’s not a Big Ten recognized conference.”

Dan Sharadin, commissioner of the CWPA, said efforts to expand the number of Big Ten institutions featuring varsity women’s water polo teams have been nonexistent in the past couple of years.

“We haven’t talked with any of them in recent years,” he said.

Sharadin said the interest is there, but the ball isn’t in his side of the pool.

“We would certainly like to,” he said. “There’s no question we would love to see more Big Ten programs added. My particular job is to manage the function of the conference itself. Part of that involves growing the conference and attracting new members. To really be effective growing the conference on the varsity level, you have to have a tremendous amount of time devoted to that particular task.”

Sharadin said there aren’t the physical resources or personnel to devote all the time specifically to attracting new varsity members.

Anderson said, as of right now, he has not spoken with Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon about Brandon persuading his fellow Athletic Directors to add varsity water polo teams.

“There are times that we discuss what might benefit the growth of the community here in terms of the sport you coach and your team,” Anderson said. “I will have that opportunity to talk to him about it."

Administrators should not be concerned about the financial aspects of adding a varsity women’s water polo team, Sharadin said.

“Water polo is one of the least-cost alternatives to add of any varsity sport,” he said. “If you already have the capital investment — the pool — and nobody else is training at that time, water polo presents a great economic value.”

Anderson said a Big Ten brand would definitely help recruiting.

“To be able to say we had a Big Ten water polo conference would clearly elevate the popularity and the respect that other Big Ten institutions would give the sport.”

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