This could represent a big turning point for the sport, as this is the first time a school is designating triathlon as a sport they will support financially, via their athletic department. In every other university, (to my knowledge), the sport is strictly considered a student club, funded by the members of the club.
Why is this important? Well, with a paid position for the coach and funds to help provide the necessary support of facilities, travel costs, equipment costs, athletic trainers and other items, this will likely lead to more enhanced and better development of athletes.
This is a Division III school though, not a Big Ten or Pac-12 university, so the caliber of athletes in these programs will likely not resemble those at the highest level, as Division III institutions offer no athletic scholarships. However, with the support offered, and a cross country season likely tied to it, it does have the potential to provide athletes with an impressive amount of support while pursuing an education. Could this lead to more Division I universities taking part in a similar program? That seems a long way off yet, but the Division III institutions have a chance here to leverage this aspect of the sport, and bring some great notoriety and exposure to their schools, helping them to offer a sport a Division I schools can't offer. Though this may not sway the top athletes, there have been many cases of hidden gems of athletes coming thru a solid development program and blossoming late. And with a committed time thru school focused on the sport, developing their weaknesses, athletes could potentially leave these programs ready to or already performing at a high level, with their education completed.
There are some drawbacks to triathlon being an NCAA sport, which I outlined some of in the LAVA magazine article from August/September 2011. Two of the main concerns have been Title 9, (gender equity policies), and restrictions placed on coaches at the institutions. The main restriction being that a top level coach can only work with athletes on their team, not coach juniors, as that would be an NCAA recruiting violation. There also must be a decision made on the style of racing that collegiate triathletes will do, and whether they will focus on a draft-legal race model to help Olympic development, or stick with non-drafting, and miss out on the key skills and experience needed for ITU and Olympic athlete development.
So what are your thoughts? Is this good for the sport? Or will this cause more headaches than it is worth?