Michigan announced it is elevating men’s and women’s lacrosse to varsity status. The men’s program will begin Division I competition in the 2011-12 academic year, while the women’s program will be ready by the 2012-13 academic year.
“Our department has carefully considered the elevation of lacrosse to varsity status, and we feel the time is right to make this move,” said Michigan AD Dave Brandon. “The men’s program is further developed based on their history of success in the club-varsity system. We plan to build upon that success at the next level. Our women’s program will require more time to build, but I am confident within a reasonable timeframe we will become competitive nationally in women’s lacrosse.”
Michigan is the first Bowl Championship Series conference school to add men’s lacrosse since Notre Dame added the sport in 1980 and started competition in 1981. Michigan will join Ohio State and Penn State as the only schools in the Big Ten Conference to sponsor men’s lacrosse.
Michigan’s club-varsity program claimed three of the last four Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association national championships and won Central Collegiate Lacrosse Association conference crowns in 11 of the past 13 seasons. The club program began in 1940 and was halted before World War II, but it restarted in 1965 and has been competing ever since. The program was elevated to club-varsity status in 2001.
Brandon said Michigan will move quickly to finalize coaching and staffing decisions and will begin recruiting efforts for the upcoming 2012 varsity season. The athletics department will fund the full complement of 12.6 scholarships for men’s lacrosse.
The Wolverines’ women’s lacrosse program started in the mid-1990s and reached club-varsity status in 2003. The Wolverines join five-time national champion Northwestern, two-time national champion Penn State, and Ohio State as varsity programs in the Big Ten. Michigan has claimed the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse League title six times since 2002, including 2011, and was the Women’s Division Intercollegiate Associates national runner-up in 2006.
A national coaching search will commence immediately for the women’s lacrosse program in preparation for its inaugural season in 2013. The full complement of 12 scholarships will be funded for women’s lacrosse.
The last men’s sport to be elevated to varsity status at Michigan was soccer, and the latest women’s addition was water polo. Both programs began varsity competition during the 2000-01 season.
The addition of both lacrosse programs brings the total number of Michigan varsity teams to 29 (14 men’s, 15 women’s).