Toledo adding women's rowing as varsity sport for 2025-26 season

Toledo is adding women’s rowing as a varsity sport, bringing the first new sport to the school in two decades at a time when many athletic departments are prepping for budget hits

TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Toledo is adding women's rowing as a varsity sport, bringing the first new sport to the school in two decades at a time when many athletic departments are prepping for budget hits.

Athletic director Bryan Blair said Tuesday that the start-up, facility and operating costs will be low for the program that will begin competing in 2025-26. The school said it expects to hire a coach this year and that the full team will have some 50-60 members, with up to 20 full scholarships available.

“This decision is revenue positive for the university to the tune of possibly $10 million or more over the next decade,” Blair said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “That’s 40 bodies that are paying to go to your institution -- room, board, books, fees. So if they’re paying anywhere between $17,000 and $26,000 apiece over the course of that time, that’s significant new revenue generated to that institution.”

Blair said school officials started having “earnest conversations” about adding women's rowing last summer, well before a May court settlement set the stage for more huge changes in college athletics.

The added sport comes while administrators, coaches and athletes throughout college sports await a federal judge's approval to a revenue-sharing model agreed to in a $2.8 billion antitrust settlement by the NCAA and the five largest college conferences. That model would allow schools to each provide up to $21 million annually to athletes or up to 22% of the average power league school's annual revenue.

That means budget shifting and difficult decisions for athletic departments nationwide, including on facilities, staffs and future coaching salaries.

Toledo's rowing team will use the Philip LeBoutillier, Jr. Memorial Boathouse downtown. The boathouse is owned by Metroparks Toledo and is operated by the Toledo Rowing Foundation.

Toledo hasn’t added a new sport since women’s soccer in 1995.

There are currently 92 Division I women’s rowing programs, including at fellow Mid-American Conference schools Eastern Michigan and Massachusetts.

“Rowing makes a lot of sense knowing that we’ve got a river that runs through the heart of our downtown,” Blair said. "We’ve got a rowing community where we’ve got six or seven area schools that already sponsor rowing.

“We’ve already got a facility there where they’re going to allow us to rent out space. So there’s virtually no facility cost. The start-up cost and operational cost are minimal, but we add possibly 50-60 high-achieving young ladies to our campus that otherwise wouldn’t be here."

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AP college sports: https://apnews.com/hub/college-sports