Last Thursday, the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) announced that the Board of Directors had voted to make adaptive sports into varsity sports. They explained that in practice this means that accommodations will be made to existing sports where reasonable, and that adaptive specific events will be added to conference championships in four sports: athletics, rowing, swimming and tennis. They will also work on a plan to create championships for wheelchair basketball, sled hockey, goalball and sitting volleyball.
ECAC President and CEO Dr. Kevin T. McGinniss was quoted as saying, “The ECAC is proud to promote and provide opportunities to potentially thousands of student-athletes with disabilities who attend ECAC member institutions. […] This historic action systematically includes student-athletes with disabilities in intercollegiate sports for the first time in any NCAA Division. I believe this action will allow many more students, including wounded veterans returning to college, to experience the benefits of competitive intercollegiate sports.”
ECAC members include 88 Division I schools, 33 Division II schools and 178 Division III schools. They run several championships in eleven different sports for conferences that include the Ivy League, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, the Northeast Conference and the Patriot League.
There are a number of intercollegiate adapted sport programs already run around the country. This includes wheelchair basketball programs at Arizona State University, Auburn University, Boise State University, Cypress College, Edinboro University, Grand Valley State University, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, Ohio State University, Oregon State University, Pennsylvania State University, Portland State University, Southern Illinois University, Southwest Minnesota State University, Texas A&M University, University of California Los Angeles, University of Alabama, University of Arizona, University of Illinois, University of Missouri, University of Texas-Arlington, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Wright State University.
Wheelchair tennis programs are offered at Arizona State University, Auburn University, Grand Valley State University and University of Texas-Arlington, athletics programs at Arizona State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Illinois, University of Texas-Arlington, and swimming programs at Pennsylvania State University and University of Texas-Arlington. A number of sports have fewer university programs. A wheelchair rugby program exists at Arizona State University, while a powerchair football program exists at Ball State University, powerlifting at Pennsylvania State University, adaptive rowing at University of Alabama, adaptive golf at University of Alabama, adaptive cycling at University of Texas-Arlington, boccia at University of Texas-Arlington, and adaptive table tennis at University of Texas-Arlington.
Some of these programs are scholarship sports with athletes competing across other teams in top level leagues across the country, sometimes in specific university conferences. Other times, these programs are part of intramural sport programs run through a university’s student association or the sport and recreation department.