The University of South Carolina will add women's lacrosse to its varsity sports roster, Athletics Director Eric Hyman announced. The addition will bring the number of varsity sports offered at USC to 21, including 12 women's sports.
"We considered several sports and women's lacrosse consistently came out on top in our list of criteria," said Hyman. "Lacrosse is one of the fastest growing sports in the country. Our research indicates that there is a very high level of interest in the sport among high school girls in this part of the country. Lacrosse is very popular in North Carolina and Virginia, along with the Northeast United States, which will help us as we recruit student-athletes to compete in this sport. We also have a club team on campus which can provide the nucleus to the varsity team," added Hyman.
The Gamecocks will begin a national search for a head coach in the spring of 2007 and expect to begin competition in the spring of 2009 at the earliest. The average roster size for women's lacrosse is 27 players with a maximum number of scholarships set at 12.
"We want to give our new coach an ample amount of time to put the building blocks in place to form a solid foundation for the program and also have enough time to recruit prospective student-athletes to field a competitive team," noted Hyman.
Vanderbilt, which has had a women's lacrosse team since 1996 and reached the NCAA semifinals in 2004, is the only SEC school that currently sponsors women's varsity lacrosse. However, Florida announced recently that it has added the program and will begin competition in the spring of 2010. Other SEC schools are also considering adding the sport. If four SEC members sponsor the sport, the league will conduct a conference championship. There is also a possibility that USC could join another conference for lacrosse in the interim. Currently 75 of the 80 Division I schools that compete in women's lacrosse are located in the southern or eastern United States.
Recent figures indicate that lacrosse is the 12th most popular sport among Division I women's programs. In 2005-06, the NCAA offered championships in 20 women's Division I sports. The NCAA has sponsored a national collegiate championship (one champion for all divisions) for women's lacrosse since 1982. 2001 was the first year for the Division I NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship.