February 9, 2012

Furman to Add Men's, Women's Division I Lacrosse for 2015 Season

$5 million gift leads to start of varsity sports

from press release

Furman University will look to hire coaches in the next couple of months, athletic director Dr. Gary Clark said.
Images courtesy Furman

GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Furman University director of athletics Dr. Gary Clark announced Thursday the school will introduce women's and men's lacrosse as varsity sports beginning with the 2014-15 school year.

"Furman University is excited to field women's and men's lacrosse teams and join the fastest growing sport in the NCAA," said Clark in making the announcement at the Younts Center on campus. "Our goal is to hire women's and men's coaches in the next couple of months to begin the recruiting process necessary to field teams by the 2015 spring season."

The new sports programs are being funded by a gift from an anonymous alumnus who pledged $5 million to the university in October 2011, the single largest outright commitment by an individual in Furman's history. A portion of the gift is also being used to support the renovation and expansion of the University Center.

"From our students to our alumni and the greater lacrosse community, there is tremendous momentum around the addition of these two teams to our Division I athletics program," said Furman president Rod Smolla. "We intend to be competitive at the national level, and reward our fans with an exciting brand of the fastest game on two feet."

The addition of women's and men's lacrosse will give Furman 20 varsity intercollegiate sports, comprising 10 women's programs and 10 men's programs. The university has a long NCAA Division I athletics history and has been a member of the Southern Conference since 1936. The SoCon does not sponsor lacrosse, leaving Furman's league affiliation for the sports to be determined.

The last time Furman added a new sport was during the 1994-95 school year. Women's soccer began play in the fall of 1994 and has since captured six SoCon regular season championships, four league tournament crowns, and made five NCAA Tournament appearances.

NCAA Division I lacrosse currently features more than 90 women's programs and 60 men's programs.

The sport boasts the top graduation success rates (GSR) among all NCAA Division 1 sports. According to the latest NCAA figures released last May, women's lacrosse posted a four-year class average GSR of 94 percent, which topped all 18 NCAA-sanctioned sports. Men's lacrosse, meanwhile, achieved an 88 percent GSR over the same period, the best among any men's sport offered in Division I. Furman's athletics program registered an overall GSR of 95 percent in the latest reporting period, with seven of its sports earning perfect 100 percent marks.

Furman University is a private, undergraduate liberal arts college of 2,700 students located in Greenville, S.C. The school is noted for its rigorous academic program and strong faculty, and its 750-acre campus is widely recognized as one of the most beautiful in the nation. The university has a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, and ranks among the nation's top colleges in the number of National Merit Scholars enrolled.


Q: Why is Furman University adding women's & men's lacrosse at this time?

A: The addition of lacrosse is a part of the university's strategic initiative in athletics as well as admissions. Furman athletics will join in the excitement of participating in the fastest growing sport in the NCAA. The addition of lacrosse will help Furman move into several key markets in a more focused and defined way, including the Atlantic Coast, Northeast, Florida and California.

Q: Given the slow economy over the last several years, how is it financially feasible for Furman to be expanding its athletics program?

A: The lacrosse programs are being funded initially by a gift from an anonymous alumnus who pledged $5 million to the university in October 2011, the single largest outright commitment by an individual in Furman's history. A portion of the gift is also being used to support the renovation and expansion of the University Center. Furman University is also in a growth mode and the expansion of the student body with the incoming lacrosse students will help support the program financially.

Q: What is the time frame for hiring head coaches for the new programs?

A: We will be looking for coaches who understand and embrace the academic environment at Furman University, recruiting students who will thrive in a liberal arts curriculum. Our goal is to have the head coaches in place by late spring to recruit the class of 2013 this summer. In the spring of 2013, we will add the first assistant for each program. The second assistant will be added when we begin competition.

Q: Where will the women's and men's coaches' offices and team locker rooms be located, and where will the squads practice and play games?

A: There are a number of questions that we have general answers for but we want to wait until the head coaches are on board before we make final decisions. We have several venues in which the teams could play their matches, including the Rugby Stadium, Paladin Stadium, home of Furman football, and Stone Stadium, home of Furman soccer. We have several practice fields as well. We anticipate installing synthetic turf on one field so that practice and games can take place without damaging the turf. We will also provide office and locker room space as other building projects unfold this spring and next fall.

Q: How much scholarship support will be provided?

A: We will provide the NCAA maximum for each program, which is 12 for women and 12.6 for men.

Q: What are the conference affiliation plans for the two programs?

A: Although we do not have a conference affiliation yet, it is one of the highest priorities. Our hope is our teams will play in very competitive conferences. We will be working through the spring to find a conference home.

"Furman has a well-deserved academic reputation, and its new lacrosse programs create another great opportunity for student-athletes to play the sport in college at the highest level," US Lacrosse President and CEO Steve Stenersen said.

What They're Saying...

Dom Starsia
Men's Head Lacrosse Coach
University of Virginia (2011 NCAA National Champion)

"It is very exciting news to hear that one of our nation's finest colleges will be adding men's lacrosse in 2014. It speaks to the dramatic growth of our game overall, and almost immediately Furman will be an attractive opportunity for aspiring, young lacrosse players."

Kelly Amonte-Hiller
Women's Head Lacrosse Coach
Northwestern University (2011 NCAA National Champion)

"It's always extremely exciting to hear the news of a university adding a Division I men's and women's lacrosse program, especially in a state like South Carolina where the sport is so popular at the youth level. Congratulations to the administration at Furman and I look forward to watching their program add to the depth of talent and high level of play that our sport is reaching at the women's Division I level."

Steve Stenersen
President & CEO
US Lacrosse

"US Lacrosse is very pleased to hear of Furman's decision to add NCAA Division I lacrosse programs for both men and women. The sport is expanding rapidly at all levels throughout the country, and this move is reflective of that growth. Furman has a well-deserved academic reputation, and its new lacrosse programs create another great opportunity for student-athletes to play the sport in college at the highest level."

Terry Foy
Managing Editor
Inside Lacrosse

"During lacrosse's rise in popularity over the last 20 years, growth at the Division I level has been the biggest hurdle. As a premier academic and athletic institution in South Carolina, Furman's adding men's and women's lacrosse is a huge endorsement of the potential that university administrators see in the sport nationally. Furman is uniquely situated to attract lacrosse players looking for a familiar college experience in a new location, and has the potential to be successful with the resources and commitment the University is sure to inject."

Tony Morgan
All-Ivy League, All-America
Cornell University (1987-91)
Furman Lacrosse Advisory Committee

"Furman University has a longstanding history of excellence in both academics and athletics. The major focus of any university should be to stimulate and advance the intellectual and character growth of its student-athletes; and Furman accomplishes this with unparalleled success. Competing at the highest national level in lacrosse will take a few years, but there is no doubt in my mind that Furman can and will win a Division I National Championship. Top notch faculty, facilities, and tradition, as well as a reputation of national prominence make Furman the ultimate destination for any student-athlete. In my opinion, Furman University is the IVY League...only with better weather!"

Dan Einstein
Furman Lacrosse Advisory Committee

"Furman University is already a beacon of light and success in our community. When Furman undertakes an initiative — whether it is arts and music, or science and sustainability, or sports — Furman is about excellence. And soon Paladin lacrosse teams will demonstrate to our community — and to our nation — what it means to be "best-in-class" in a new, exciting and challenging dimension of this fine university. The Upstate lacrosse community looks forward to the opportunity to watch top Division 1 lacrosse right here at home and to support the fine student athletes and coaches that are hallmarks of Furman University."

From left to right at Thusday's announcement: Gary Clark, Furman Director of Athletics; Dan Einstein, Furman Lacrosse Advisory Committe; and Rod Smolla, Furman President.

Ansel Sanders
Washington & Lee University (2001-04)
Furman Lacrosse Advisory Committee

"The addition of lacrosse at Furman University is tremendous both for the university and the sport of lacrosse. Not only will Furman become an even more dynamic institution that continues to strive for excellence in all aspects, including athletics, but Furman will also catapult the ever-growing sport of lacrosse into prominence in South Carolina. I cannot wait to see this program blossom into a national powerhouse."

Conni Lanzl
Wilson College (1969-72)
National Lacrosse Hall of Fame (Inducted 1998)
Furman Lacrosse Advisory Committee

"In some ways lacrosse is a little like Furman. You may not have seen it or known much about it, but once you're introduced, you become a passionate fan and advocate. Lacrosse is the fastest growing sport in the country, and in South Carolina it's trickling up from the high schools to the colleges and universities. The increasing interest is generated by the speed and flow of the game, the ability to score quick goals, the intensity of the competition, the strategies that are learned in practice and executed by the players on the field, the challenges of goalkeeping, the place of both finesse and strength, the critical importance of teamwork balanced by individual initiative, and even the significant differences between the men's and the women's games. For colleges, offering lacrosse has become a recruiting tool to engage the broader geographic spectrum. Furman's decision to add a lacrosse program has been made with the same kind of conscious, deliberate, and bold decision-making that it has exhibited time and time again. A decision made in the best interests of the students, the institution, and its hometown of Greenville County. All of us will benefit."

Richie Meade
President, Intercollegiate Men's Lacrosse Coaches Association
Head Coach, United States Men's Senior National Team

"On behalf of the Intercollegiate Men's Lacrosse Association I want to congratulate Furman University, president Smolla and Gary Clark for their vision and leadership in adding intercollegiate lacrosse to its sports program. Furman is an outstanding university and the university community will enjoy lacrosse as part of the campus experience. We are excited for the future student-athletes from all over the country who now have the ability to get a great education and compete at a national level in the sport of lacrosse at Furman. We wish the university great success as they move forward in the process and look forward to seeing the program develop and grow."

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