Newly inaugurated USC President C.L. Max Nikias made an informal announcement last Thursday to USC news source Annenberg TV News that the university will add a Division I women’s lacrosse team to the athletics department.
The addition has not been formally announced yet, but it will come in the near future as coaching acquisitions are made, Nikias said.
“Pretty soon we are going to announce that we will introduce a women lacrosse team, Division I, at USC,” Nikias said to ATVN. “That is going to be announced in the next few months. We are in the process of recruiting the coach for the team and then we will make the announcement.”
According to Nikias, the move to add a lacrosse team comes as a result of the rising popularity of the sport, whose following has recently risen despite the long history of the game. He also mentioned that there are plans to add a men’s team in the future as well.
“Lacrosse is becoming very popular,” Nikias said. “It’s more popular in the East Coast, but now it is becoming more and more popular in the West Coast. I wanted to give priority to the women lacrosse and then in the next three to five years I think we are going to be in a position to also introduce a men’s lacrosse team.”
There are currently 91 Division I women’s lacrosse teams in the country, three at Pac-10 schools (the teams compete in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in women’s lacrosse) — Stanford, Oregon and Cal. USC will become the fourth.
USC currently has a women’s lacrosse club, which will continue to compete at the club level, said Erini Blakey, a senior captain on the team.
Blakey said she is excited about the opportunity the team will have to compete at a higher level in the future.
“It’s incredibly exciting,” Blakey said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for girls here but also for the sport in general. It’s such an East Coast sport, and to have a school like USC decide to put in a program is very big news. We’re all very excited for it.”
Blakey also noted that the growing demand both nationally and in California was reason enough for a team at USC.
“I think that our club’s success and growth might have caught the attention of the athletic department, but I think it is such a popular sport around the country that it [called for a team],” Blakey said. “The sport has gained a lot of popularity in California in the recent years. We are host to some of the best clubs in the nation.”
But although the new Division I team will draw a lot of talent to USC from the surrounding area, Blakey said she isn’t worried about a potential erosion of membership on the club side stemming from the new team’s creation.
“The girls on our team will have the opportunity to try out for the D-I team, which is a great opportunity for them. But there will also be great athletes who choose not to try out for the varsity team,” Blakey said. “It’s not going to negatively affect the club team; rather, it will promote the sport, which I think is wonderful.”
Once instituted, the team will become the 11th Division I women’s sport at USC.