The University of Richmond on Friday announced it will add Division I men's lacrosse, and drop men's soccer and men's track and field.
The board of trustees promoted a growing sport that seems to fit a private school that draws heavily from the Northeast and opened 8,700-seat Robins Stadium on campus in 2010. UR has had club lacrosse since 1967.
"If you were starting from scratch, just building an athletic program, lacrosse would be a sport that would be near the top of the list at Richmond," UR athletics director Jim Miller said.
Spring 2014 would be the earliest the Spiders could play Division I lacrosse. UR will explore associate membership with the CAA and Patriot League. Miller said the changes "will result in a new $3 million athletic endowment funded by multiple donors and additional resources for other Olympic sports."
Once the school supported Division I lacrosse, elimination of a sport, or sports, was necessary, according to UR's strategic plan. It called for utilization of "existing resources" when a task force was formed to examine the mix of varsity and club sports.
"It's not just a money issue," Miller said.
If no sports were cut, "You'd have to add close to 20 reserved admissions spots a year for athletes in lacrosse and (also in a new women's sport added to comply with Title IX)," Miller said. "If you're at a school of 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 or 50,000, it makes no difference. For us, that would be a major and significant issue."
UR's enrollment is 2,950. At least 80 admissions spots in each class of approximately 770 are reserved for student-athletes, according to Miller.
With the addition of a men's sport, Title IX dictated cuts come from the men's side. UR studied baseball and soccer, which works with about eight scholarships. Men's track has no scholarships.
Miller said among the reasons soccer was selected was lack of recent success (one winning season since 2003), comparative contributions from former soccer and baseball players, the school's decision not to build a soccer facility with a grass field, and the challenge of gaining national prominence in soccer, a sport with hundreds of Division I teams. There were 61 Division I men's lacrosse teams last spring.
Baseball's history of success and its dedicated on-campus facility were factors, according to Miller.
Soccer players on scholarship can remain at UR on scholarship until they graduate or for a period equal to their remaining eligibility. Those scholarships gradually will shift to lacrosse. The NCAA limit in the sport is 12.6. The in-progress soccer season will be the Spiders' last.
In October 2010, UR hired Glenn Carter, a former Ursinus College coach, as the Spiders' first full-time lacrosse coach. UR will conduct a national search for a coach. Carter's application is welcomed, Miller said.
Clint Peay, soccer coach for the past three seasons, resigned in July to take a position with U.S. Soccer's U17 men's national team. Richmond Kickers coach Lee Cowlishaw, a former UR star, is coaching this fall on an interim basis.