GREENVILLE, N.C. (ECU Media Relations) – East Carolina University will add women’s lacrosse as an intercollegiate sport with competition to begin in the 2017-18 academic year according to an announcement by director of athletics Jeff Compher on Wednesday.
The addition of women’s lacrosse will increase East Carolina’s cumulative varsity sport count to 20 and represent the 11th women’s athletic program.
“Today we celebrate the addition of women’s lacrosse to our Pirate family,” Compher said. “This exciting sport allows East Carolina to expand women’s athletics opportunities at the Division I level. Women’s lacrosse continues to grow in popularity and participation throughout North Carolina and the nation and we are confident that Pirate fans will enthusiastically support our new team as we build the program over the next several years.”
The initial phase of the women’s lacrosse implementation timeline includes development strategies, a national search for the hiring of a head coach and staff, and student-athlete recruitment with an anticipated first season of varsity competition slated for the spring of 2018.
The average women’s lacrosse roster consists of 28 individuals and ECU plans to meet the maximum of 12 equivalency scholarships via annual increments.
From a facility standpoint, ECU Athletics will utilize the same venue for soccer in the fall and lacrosse in the spring since each program competes at alternate times of the year. Team locker rooms, meeting space and athletic training amenities are already on site at the Williams-Harvey Teams Building adjacent to the playing field.
NCAA Division I lacrosse currently features 111 women’s programs and the sport boasts one of the top graduation success rates (GSR) among all NCAA Division I sports. According to NCAA figures released last year, women’s lacrosse posted a four-year class average GSR of 95 percent, which ranks among the best of all 18 NCAA-sanctioned sports.
US Lacrosse also reports that lacrosse is the fastest growing sport for girls in high schools across the country, with a 29.8 percent increase of institutions sponsoring the sport from 2010 to 2015. It also is the fastest growing sport for women at the collegiate level, with a 33.6 percent increase in NCAA institutions sponsoring the sport from 2010 to 2015, according to US Lacrosse.
“The addition of varsity lacrosse at East Carolina University is a wonderful acknowledgement of the sport’s continued growth in popularity and relevance,” US Lacrosse CEO Steve Stenersen said. “We’re thankful for the university’s commitment to lacrosse and for the many student-athletes who will have the opportunity to build a strong lacrosse tradition at ECU.”
East Carolina becomes the eighth university in the state of North Carolina with a varsity women’s lacrosse program, joining Campbell, Davidson, Duke, Elon, Gardner-Webb, High Point and UNC. Including neighboring South Carolina and Virginia, there are a combined 19 programs playing at the NCAA Division I level. Among American Athletic Conference members, Cincinnati, Connecticut and Temple each field teams.
Women’s lacrosse is currently offered as a club sport at ECU and has a team roster of over 40 members. At the state prep level, 102 high school girls lacrosse programs compete for a North Carolina High School Athletic Association-recognized championship that has been in existence since 2010.
The implementation of a Pirate lacrosse program supports ECU’s enduring mission to invest in comprehensive intercollegiate competition opportunities for female student-athletes.
Women’s lacrosse marks the first addition of a varsity sport at East Carolina since women’s golf began competition in the 2000-01 academic year.
“We have great leadership in athletics and we look forward to expanding both the number and quality of our programs there,” ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard said. “We have an excellent club lacrosse team to build upon and this sport is certainly growing in the communities of North Carolina. We expect to be successful in all aspects of this important growth opportunity.”
Mike Hanley, ECU’s Associate Athletics Director for Student Services, will serve as the sport’s primary administrator.