CMU approves addition of women's golf, lacrosse; more could come

Women's golf and lacrosse will become the university's two newest varsity-level sports after the Central Michigan University Board of Trustees approved them Thursday.

Golf will begin play in the 2014-2015 academic year, while lacrosse will take the field in 2015-2016. The last time CMU added a Division I sport was in 1998 with women's soccer.

The approval came in response to CMU's long-standing compliance with Title IX, a law that preserves the equality between men and women in collegiate academic and athletic opportunities. CMU is currently in compliance with the law but is looking to the future by adding more sports.

"As long as we are working toward equality, we are in compliance. No one can stay in compliance every minute, because things are always changing," Gender Equality Committee Chair Judy Chandler said.

Adding the new sports is going to cost the athletics department $964,148 over the next three years. Half of the budget will consist of scholarships for both sports. Golf will receive six scholarships, while lacrosse will receive 12.

With the addition of the two new sports, men's sports will receive about 132 scholarships on average, while women's sports will receive 113.

CMU Athletics Director Dave Heeke said the athletics department has a lot of work ahead of it to get the programs going.

"Now that the board has acted formally and we know where we are heading, our program can look at relationships for the golf program as an initial step," Heeke said. "It's a (step-by-step) approach. We need to hire coaches who can function and recruit potential student athletes, build alignments and relationships with the community and then kick off a competitive season."

According to a Gender Equality Committee report, the hiring of a golf coach could come as soon as April 2013, and a lacrosse head coach could be hired by 2014.

Though there were eight sports originally up for consideration, golf and lacrosse were ultimately picked because they are considered 'Michigan sports' and have become popular in the state.

"Lacrosse (is) growing exponentially across the country, but, in Michigan, it has also grown very rapidly," Chandler said. "Michigan is adding more programs to lacrosse than any other women's sport. Since we start our recruiting from home, it was a good (sport) for us to add at this time."

While CMU's women's golf team will become the 10th team in the Mid-American Conference, the women's lacrosse team will have to play elsewhere by joining another league or starting as an independent. The MAC does not recognize lacrosse.

"We need six schools for it to be a MAC Sport," Executive Associate Director of Athletics and Sports Administration Marcy Weston said.

Heeke gave a clear picture of the conference possibilities for lacrosse.

"Lacrosse conferences are more regional conferences than (in) alignment with a league. We'll find alignments that make sense," he said. "In the not-so-distant future, there will be some natural alignment that could occur."

Ideas about facilities for both teams are already being formulated.

"Facilities-wise, golf will be first. We have a number of wonderful and truly excellent golf courses here in the area," Chandler said. "From what I understand, the team would use a variety of courses. Obviously, there are no contracts with courses, but we will be in contact with all of them."

Finding a lacrosse facility could be a little more complicated for the department.

"Lacrosse will be played on campus. People have asked about our soccer field, but the field is smaller than a lacrosse field. There might be some things we can do with track adjustments," Weston said. "If you don't have a regulation field, the only thing you can't do is host NCAA tournaments, but you can compete."

For a better understanding, Weston made a simple baseball analogy.

"The base paths have to be the same distance, but the outfield fences are different. We have to have a minimum (size), but the maximum (size) allows you to host tournaments," she said.

This isn't the end for women's sports additions at the university. According to a GEC report, there is a potential for two more women's sports to be added by 2017.

"This is step one. We aren't done yet," University President George Ross said.


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