June 1, 2012
DESTIN, Fla. - The Southeastern Conference will now sponsor a championship in the sport of equestrian beginning with the 2012-13 academic year, Commissioner Mike Slive announced Friday. Four current members of the league sponsor the sport with Auburn, Georgia, South Carolina and Texas A&M each fielding equestrian squads.
Equestrian becomes the SEC's 21st sport and is the first championship to be added to the league since softball began in 1997.
Each of the four SEC schools which sponsor equestrian at the varsity level have combined for 10 national championships and six Reserve Championships. Georgia leads the way with five overall titles, followed by Auburn and South Carolina with two each. Texas A&M became the latest team to grab the championship, earning its first overall title in 2012.
"I think we were really looking for a championship opportunity for the student-athletes that participate in the sport and this will provide them the opportunity to compete for a conference championship now," said SEC Executive Associate Commissioner Mark Womack.
"We are so excited to have the SEC sponsor equestrian as a sport," head coach Meghan Boenig. "We are confident this sponsorship will allow the sport to grow not only in the SEC, but also throughout the country. We are ecstatic to welcome Texas A&M into the league as the fourth school to have a varsity equestrian program. The addition of the Aggies adds to the strength of an already strong schedule among SEC schools.
Legislative action, which took place this week in Destin, was necessary to allow for the addition of equestrian. Previously, one-third of league institutions would need to sponsor a sport in order for the conference to hold a championship event in that sport. With 12 members, that number was previous four institutions. With the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, the new legislation will allow that number to remain at four for the sponsoring of new sports.
"There was legislative action that really altered the number of teams that were required to have a conference championship in a sport," Womack said "With that move, we were right on the edge with equestrian, and so that legislative proposal being passed resulted in an equestrian championship for the first time."
The first SEC equestrian championship will take place in the 2012-13 school year and will likely be an on-campus championship.
"That will begin next season and that will probably be a campus-hosted championship," Womack said. "We will have to see where it goes from there."