MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Marquette University will add men's and women's lacrosse to its NCAA Division I varsity sports offerings, Athletic Director Steve Cottingham announced Thursday. Both teams will begin competition in spring 2013.
"Lacrosse is a thrilling sport, loved by fans and participants, and a natural fit for Marquette," said Cottingham. "The national growth of lacrosse and Marquette's membership in the BIG EAST make this exactly the right time for us to move forward with lacrosse as a varsity sport at Marquette. We are confident we can build programs that compete successfully at the national level."
Lacrosse will become the eighth men's sport to be offered at MU, as well as the eighth women's team to be added, bringing the total number of varsity programs at the university to 16.
Marquette plans to hire head coaches in advance of the 2011-12 academic year to allow the respective coaching staffs to recruit student-athletes for the first season in 2012-13 with varsity competition starting that spring. The Golden Eagles will play as an independent their first season of competition before becoming a full member of the BIG EAST Conference in men's and women's lacrosse in 2013-14.
By adding one of the fastest growing sports at all levels nationwide, Marquette is set to become just the third university (Notre Dame, Detroit) in the five-state region of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin to offer NCAA Division I men's lacrosse and the fourth (Notre Dame, Detroit, Northwestern) to sponsor Division I women's lacrosse.
There are currently nine BIG EAST schools that sponsor NCAA Division I women's lacrosse, including Cincinnati, Connecticut, Georgetown, Notre Dame, Louisville, Rutgers, Syracuse and Villanova. Loyola-Maryland is an associate member of the conference, competing in women's lacrosse only.
Men's lacrosse was added to the BIG EAST in 2010, increasing the league's total number of sponsored sports to 24. Seven schools in the BIG EAST currently field varsity men's teams: Georgetown, Notre Dame, Providence, Rutgers, St. John's, Syracuse and Villanova.
"The addition of men's and women's lacrosse reflects Marquette's continuing commitment to a broad and successful athletics program -- something that has been evident to all of us since the school began competing in the BIG EAST Conference in 2005," said John Marinatto, BIG EAST Commissioner. "As a conference, it elevates the number of lacrosse sponsored programs in our league to 10 on the women's side and eight on the men's side, underscoring the growth and importance of the sport to our membership."
The MU athletic department has retained former Loyola-Maryland and Maryland head coach Dave Cottle, who will serve as a consultant during the introduction process. A three-time all-American while at Salisbury State, Cottle went on to lead his teams to a combined 22 NCAA tournament appearances -- including five NCAA semifinal appearances -- as a collegiate head coach.
"Our road to nationally competitive lacrosse programs begins by accessing Dave's incredible wealth of lacrosse knowledge and industry relationships," said Mike Broeker, Deputy Athletic Director and sport administrator for men's lacrosse. "His guidance in helping us identify the right leaders for our new programs is paramount."
Both Marquette lacrosse teams will be fully funded with the maximum number of scholarships, and coaches, allowed by the NCAA. The average roster size for a Division I women's lacrosse team is 25.5 student-athletes compared to 44.8 individuals on the men's side, according to the latest NCAA Sports Sponsorship and Participation Rates Report.
A comprehensive athletic facilities study is already underway and will focus on the future needs of all student-athletes at Marquette.
"It is always exciting to create opportunities and positive experiences for student-athletes," said Danielle Josetti, Associate Athletic Director for Compliance and MU's sport administrator for women's lacrosse.
"The BIG EAST has a strong reputation in lacrosse and we are prepared to support our teams to be competitive nationally."