MINNEAPOLIS — Augsburg College is continuing its tradition of being a pioneer in women’s athletics by creating a varsity women’s lacrosse team, to begin play in the 2013-14 school year.
Augsburg will be the first college or university in Minnesota to sponsor a varsity women’s lacrosse program. Augsburg continues to lead the field in adding athletic opportunities for women; in 1995, Augsburg was the first college or university in the Midwest to sponsor a varsity women’s ice hockey team.
“I am proud that Augsburg is once again willing to be the leader in bringing a varsity women’s program to Minnesota,” said Augsburg Athletic Director Jeff Swenson. “As we were pioneers in 1995 when we were the first Midwestern school to have a varsity women’s hockey program, we continue to be committed to be a strong leader for women’s athletics.”
The college approved the addition of women’s lacrosse to Augsburg’s varsity athletics offerings earlier this month. Lacrosse will become the 21st varsity sport, and 11th for women, offered by the college. The addition of women’s lacrosse is expected to add 25 to 30 female student-athletes to the college, athletic administrators have stated.
Augsburg will hire a head coach this summer, who will begin the recruiting process during the 2012-13 school year. Women’s lacrosse is a spring sport, and competition will begin in March 2014. Augsburg has already announced its intentions to sponsor varsity lacrosse to its fellow institutions in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“I am excited by the decision to launch a women’s lacrosse program at Augsburg,” said Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow. “I am a huge fan of intercollegiate athletics at the NCAA Division III level, and proud that Augsburg is a leader in the MIAC and around the country in offering students opportunities to compete in a wide range of sports in the context of an outstanding academic community. Our student-athletes truly reflect a commitment to lifelong learning, to good sportsmanship and to being fine representatives of the values of our college. I look forward to learning more about the sport of lacrosse, to cheering our new team on and to watching with pride as these newest Auggies join our community.”
Augsburg is joining in the dynamic growth of lacrosse throughout the country. According to a 2011 participation report published by U.S. Lacrosse, participation in lacrosse on all levels (youth, high school, collegiate, post-collegiate) has grown from 253,931 players in 2001 to 684,730 in 2011. Of the 2011 number, U.S. Lacrosse reports that 260,561 are female players – including 112,865 at the high school level and 13,532 on the collegiate level.
U.S. Lacrosse also reports that lacrosse is the fastest growing sport for girls in high schools across the country, with a 48.2-percent increase of schools sponsoring teams from 2006 to 2011. The Minnesota State High School League began sponsoring girls’ lacrosse in 2001-02, and sponsored its first state championship in 2007. There are 78 high schools that sponsor girls’ lacrosse (63 teams, including seven multi-school cooperative programs) in Minnesota this season, according to the MSHSL’s website. This Tuesday to Thursday (6/5-7), the MSHSL is holding its state championship tournament at Chanhassen High School.
Lacrosse is also the fastest growing sport for women at the collegiate level, with a 31.7-percent increase in NCAA schools sponsoring the sport from 2006 to 2011, according to U.S. Lacrosse. There are currently 216 NCAA Division III schools that sponsor lacrosse, up from 169 in the 2006-07 season, according to the NCAA.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the federal passage of the landmark Title IX law mandating equal access for women to educational opportunities, including athletics. Augsburg will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of its varsity women’s athletic program in November.
“As we celebrate 40 years of Augsburg women’s athletics and Title IX, I can think of no better time to add women’s varsity lacrosse as our 11th women’s sport at Augsburg,” Swenson said. “I am extremely proud that Augsburg is a leader in providing opportunities for women in athletics.”