Read the official press release from Furman University about their decision to take their Men’s and Women’s teams D1. Also, read our exclusive Q & A about the decision from six days ago.
GREENVILLE, S.C. — Furman University director of athletics Dr. Gary Clark announced Thursday the school will introduce women’s and men’s lacrosse as varsity sports beginning with the 2014-2015 school year.
“Furman University is excited to field women’s and men’s lacrosse teams and join the fastest growing sport in the NCAA,” said Clark in making the announcement at the Younts Center on campus. “Our goal is to hire women’s and men’s coaches in the next couple of months to begin the recruiting process necessary to field teams by the 2014 spring season.”
The new sports programs are being funded by a gift from an anonymous alumnus who pledged $5 million to the university in October 2011, the single largest outright commitment by an individual in Furman’s history. A portion of the gift is also being used to support the renovation and expansion of the University Center.
“From our students to our alumni and the greater lacrosse community, there is tremendous momentum around the addition of these two teams to our Division I athletics program,” said Furman president Rod Smolla. “We intend to be competitive at the national level, and reward our fans with an exciting brand of the fastest game on two feet.”
The addition of women’s and men’s lacrosse will give Furman 20 varsity intercollegiate sports, comprising 10 women’s programs and 10 men’s programs. The university has a long NCAA Division 1 athletics history and has been a member of the Southern Conference since 1936. The SoCon does not sponsor lacrosse, leaving Furman’s league affiliation for the sports to be determined.
The last time Furman added a new sport was during the 1994-95 school year. Women’s soccer began play in the fall of 1994 and has since captured six SoCon regular season championships, four league tournament crowns, and made five NCAA Tournament appearances.
NCAA Division I lacrosse currently features more than 90 women’s programs and 60 men’s programs.
The sport boasts the top graduation success rates (GSR) among all NCAA Division 1 sports. According to the latest NCAA figures released last May, women’s lacrosse posted a four-year class average GSR of 94 percent, which topped all 18 NCAA-sanctioned sports. Men’s lacrosse, meanwhile, achieved an 88 percent GSR over the same period, the best among any men’s sport offered in Division I. Furman’s athletics program registered an overall GSR of 95 percent in the latest reporting period, with seven of its sports earning perfect 100 percent marks.
Furman University is a private, undergraduate liberal arts college of 2,700 students located in Greenville, S.C. The school is noted for its rigorous academic program and strong faculty, and its 750-acre campus is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful in the nation. The university has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and ranks among the nation’s top colleges in the number of National Merit Scholars enrolled.
Q: Why is Furman University adding women’s & men’s lacrosse at this time?
A: The addition of lacrosse is a part of the university’s strategic initiative in athletics as well as admissions. Furman athletics will join in the excitement of participating in the fastest growing sport in the NCAA. The addition of lacrosse will help Furman move into several key markets in a more focused and defined way, including the Atlantic Coast, Northeast, Florida and California.
Q: Given the slow economy over the last several years, how is it financially feasible for Furman to be expanding its athletics program?
A: The lacrosse programs are being funded initially by a gift from an anonymous alumnus who pledged $5 million to the university in October 2011, the single largest outright commitment by an individual in Furman’s history. A portion of the gift is also being used to support the renovation and expansion of the University Center. Furman University is also in a growth mode and the expansion of the student body with the incoming lacrosse students will help support the program financially.
Q: What is the time frame for hiring head coaches for the new programs?
A: We will be looking for coaches who understand and embrace the academic environment at Furman University, recruiting students who will thrive in a liberal arts curriculum. Our goal is to have the head coaches in place by late spring to recruit the class of 2013 this summer. In the spring of 2013, we will add the first assistant for each program. The second assistant will be added when we begin competition.
Q: Where will the women’s and men’s coaches’ offices and team locker rooms be located, and where will the squads practice and play games?
A: There are a number of questions that we have general answers for but we want to wait until the head coaches are on board before we make final decisions. We have several venues in which the teams could play their matches, including the Rugby Stadium, Paladin Stadium, home of Furman football, and Stone Stadium, home of Furman soccer. We have several practice fields as well. We anticipate installing synthetic turf on one field so that practice and games can take place without damaging the turf. We will also provide office and locker room space as other building projects unfold this spring and next fall.
Q: How much scholarship support will be provided?
A: We will provide the NCAA maximum for each program, which is 12 for women and 12.6 for men.
Q: What are the conference affiliation plans for the two programs?
A: Although we do not have a conference affiliation yet, it is one of the highest priorities. Our hope is our teams will play in very competitive conferences. We will be working through the spring to find a conference home.