MACON, Ga. – The Atlantic Sun Conference announced today that Central Michigan University is its newest affiliate member and the Chippewas will begin play in women's lacrosse in the 2016 season.
CMU becomes the second team from Michigan to join the A-Sun, expanding the conference’s women’s lacrosse roster to nine teams when it takes the field in 2015-16. Currently the league has five members who will be a part of the conference in 2016: Detroit, Howard, Jacksonville, Kennesaw State and Stetson. Joining the A-Sun in 2015 will be Furman, Mercer and Old Dominion. The league winner earns one of the 13 automatic bids into the NCAA Tournament.
“Women’s lacrosse continues to be one of the country’s fastest growing sports, and we are very proud to add Central Michigan University to our growing Aâ€‘Sun lineup,” said A-Sun Commissioner Ted Gumbart. “As the sport’s popularity expands, the A-Sun is well-positioned to provide outstanding competitive opportunities for student-athletes and to promote the A- Sun and affiliate member institutions that battle for our NCAA Championship bid. Central Michigan will be an outstanding addition and we look forward to the contributions its women’s lacrosse team will make to the A-Sun.”
Lacrosse is the fastest growing women's sport both at the high school and collegiate level. According to the US Lacrosse Participation Survey, the number of women's lacrosse teams at the NCAA level increased 30.3 percent between 2005 and 2010, and the number of high school girls' teams increased 48.4 percent. That growth, particularly throughout the Southeast, led to the Atlantic Sun Conference beginning sponsorship of women’s lacrosse in 2013, with champion Jacksonville earning the conference's first women's lacrosse automatic bid. The results of the USL survey are also important to CMU, as it revealed Michigan's 8,075 youth players as the ninth-highest total in the country.
Central Michigan announced the addition of women’s lacrosse along with women’s golf in December 2012. The addition of these programs will continue Central Michigan's long-standing compliance with Title IX and will provide equitable athletics participation and education opportunities for both men and women. Beginning in 2015-16, the university will offer a total of 18 sport programs - 11 for women and seven for men.
“I want to thank the Atlantic Sun Conference for this opportunity,” CMU Director of Athletics Dave Heeke said. “This league will provide our program with a stable, equitable league in its first year of competition. It also will create a natural rival with A-Sun affiliate member University of Detroit-Mercy, which I think is important as we get our program started.”
Women’s lacrosse is one of three sports the Atlantic Sun has added since 2012. In 2012 the A-Sun became the first Division I conference to conduct a sand volleyball championship and the A-Sun began sponsorship of men’s lacrosse this year.
“We were encouraged by the cooperation we received from Atlantic Sun Conference Senior Associate Commissioner Matt Wilson during the application process,” Executive Associate Director of Athletics Marcy Weston said. “Our student-athletes will be afforded an excellent experience competing in the Atlantic Sun.”
The Atlantic Sun Conference is an NCAA Division I league with 10 member institutions committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun meets the challenge of maintaining the highest standards in academic and athletic achievement with a true balance between student and athlete. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun boasts seven of the top media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, Northern Kentucky University, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.