HARROGATE, Tn (WYMT) - Lincoln Memorial University is set to add men's and women's lacrosse to the cast of varsity sports prior to the 2014-15 academic year, Athletic Director Roger Vannoy announced on Wednesday. Both teams are scheduled to begin competition in the spring of 2015.
The men's and women's lacrosse programs will become the 14th and 15th varsity sports at Lincoln Memorial respectively, and the newest athletic teams at the school since the women's golf team's inception in 1998. The two programs will begin competing immediately in the South Atlantic Conference.
"After the success experienced by last year's programs, we feel like we are ready to push the athletic department to the next level," Athletic Director Roger Vannoy said. "Nationally, lacrosse is certainly an up-and-coming sport, and I think its addition to our rotation of varsity sports will create a buzz in the community. We're excited to take on the challenge of building a nationally-competitive lacrosse program here at Lincoln Memorial University."
The athletic department has a directive in place for establishing the inaugural lacrosse teams at Lincoln Memorial. In the coming weeks, the search will begin for a Director of Lacrosse and that position is scheduled to be filled by January 1, 2014. By July of 2014, another coach will be hired to fill the other head coaching vacancy.
LMU's announcement of its plan to add men's and women's lacrosse for the 2015 season comes a year after the South Atlantic Conference announced that the two sports are set to be officially sponsored by the league beginning in 2014. With the addition of Queens University of Charlotte and Coker College to the SAC, the league meets the requirements for conference sport sponsorship, as outlined in article XV of the SAC Bylaws.
Lincoln Memorial will become the eighth men's lacrosse program and the seventh on the women's side in the South Atlantic Conference with their establishment in 2015. Catawba, Coker, Lenoir-Rhyne, Mars Hill, Queens, Wingate and Tusculum are slated to compete on the men's side in 2014, while Catawba, Lenoir-Rhyne, Newberry, Queens, Wingate and Coker will vie for the women's title this upcoming season.
"I believe the initiative of adding men's and women's lacrosse teams next season is further proof of the athletic department's commitment to enhancing the student-athlete experience and creating a successful, winning culture at Lincoln Memorial University," Athletic Director Roger Vannoy said. "It also speaks volumes regarding our department's unified growth. LMU athletics is steeped in tradition, and, as a department, we are thrilled to begin a new tradition and new era with the addition of lacrosse."
On a national scale, lacrosse is currently one of the fastest growing sports at all levels of the NCAA. According to the NCAA Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report, the total number of men participating at the NCAA level has jumped from 167,055 in 1982 to 257,690 in 2012. The women's side has experienced an even larger influx of participants, moving from 64,390 to 195,657 over that same span. There are currently a total of 49 men's and 69 women's teams competing at the NCAA Division II level.
That nationwide boost in participation should be immediately noticed on the Harrogate campus, as the average NCAA Division II men's squad boasts 37.3 players, while the average women's team is comprised of 23.0 members according to the NCAA Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report.
The inaugural South Atlantic Conference Lacrosse Men's and Women's Championships will be decided in 2014 in the sports' first season under the league's sponsorship. Lincoln Memorial will jump into the battle for the second SAC titles in 2015, the first season of lacrosse in the rich history of LMU athletics.
Lincoln Memorial University is the heir of Abraham Lincoln's vision of "a great university for the people of this area" here in the Cumberland Gap. Nestled in the pristine Appalachian Mountain range, Lincoln Memorial University's main campus is located in Harrogate, Tennessee, and it offers a liberal arts education with over 30 academic majors and 11 extended sites in surrounding areas. LMU athletics has been a member of the South Atlantic Conference since 2006.