Cycling team aims for NCAA recognition, varsity status
The cycling team at The University of Alabama may be considered a club sport by University standards for now, but its members believe it could soon become NCAA- recognized.
Club president Alex Heldman, a sophomore majoring in physics and math, said while the club was created more than four years ago, it only started to gain momentum in the past two years.
“Through Get on Board Day and emails I have received, we have had 78 people who have expressed interest in joining this year,” Heldman said. “Hopefully, we can maintain a fair number of those people, but even if we only get half of those people, it would be an improvement over last year.”
Vice president Geoff Alpin, a sophomore majoring in biology, said he would like to see the sport become recognized by the NCAA, but for now, he said the team is working to become a premium club at the University.
“It could become a NCAA sport, and other universities already have varsity teams, but the biggest thing that is holding us back is membership,” Alpin said. “If we can show that we have enough people, and enough wins, we think the school will pick up the sport [as a premium club], even in the next year.”
Club sports at the University are categorized by different levels based on the amount of money in the program. Premium clubs, such as the wheelchair basketball teams, receive the most support from the University. To be considered by the University for a promotion to become a premium club, the team must meet different criteria.
They must compete in at least eight out-of-state events and be competitive on a national level, Alpin said. For this academic year, the cycling team already has those eight events scheduled.
The University’s team, which competes in the Southeastern Collegiate Cycling Conference, has even made great strides competing against other SECCC teams, many of which have varsity teams that can offer scholarships to their athletes.
Last weekend the team hosted the Crimson Classic, which brought competition from all over the South, including the University of Florida, the University of South Carolina and Clemson University.
Without additional funding from the University, the cycling team may be facing an uphill battle against tough competition, but for now, Alpin said they are fine with not being considered a threat by their competition.
“Definitely, right now, we are considered the underdog in most events,” Aplin said. “But last year, the races we did get to go to, we did very well, especially for not having many team members in a single race.”