USC Athletic Director Pat Haden confirmed weeks of speculation on Thursday, officially announcing that the university will introduce a Division I women’s lacrosse team for the 2012-2013 season.
“Women’s lacrosse is another opportunity to showcase the talents of young women, who we hope will come play for us and win us a national championship,” Haden said on Thursday.
Women’s lacrosse will become USC’s 21st NCAA sport, and its 12th women’s sport. Although lacrosse has a presence on campus in the form of men’s and women’s club teams, USC has never been represented at the Division I level.
Senior Associate Athletic Director Mark Jackson said the decision to add the team was a well-thought-out process, adding that it was important to ensure that the new sport would carry the same weight and attention from the athletic department that all of USC’s other D-I sports demand.
“USC likes to do things in a first-class way, and that’s exactly the way this will be approached,” Jackson said. “We’re not taking this lightly by any means. This is hugely important to both [USC president C. L. Max Nikias] and [Haden] as one of their first initiatives athletically, and we’re going go about this just like we go about all of our 21 sports.”
Lacrosse’s rise began on the East Coast, but has grown rapidly in popularity across the United States and has spread westward as more and more universities embrace the sport.
“It’s really exciting — if you look at the sport itself, Max and Pat and the department recognize this trend in participation amongst lacrosse players in California and nationally,” Jackson said. “It was a brilliant move — the timing of this sport, our campus, our brand, our academic profile, the kind of kids we’re going to recruit. It all just fits right.”
Jackson also noted the important role that Haden played in creating the team.
“Haden was integral,” he said. “In just a few months time to turn around a program like this is certainly indicative of what he’s about and where he sees the department headed.”
The decision came as no surprise, considering the team was unofficially announced almost two months ago by Nikias. The official announcement was pending while the athletic department searched for a coach, though one has not yet been selected.
The team will join the Mountain Pacific Sports Conference as its seventh team. Competing in the MPSF already are Stanford, Oregon, UC-Davis, Fresno State, Denver and St. Mary’s.