The Atlantic Sun Conference will debut men’s lacrosse as an NCAA Division I championship sport in the spring of 2014, adding its third new sport in as many years and the 20th overall to its roster.
The conference will feature Jacksonville, Mercer, Furman (affiliate), High Point (affiliate), Richmond (affiliate) and Virginia Military Institute (affiliate). Furman and Richmond will play their inaugural seasons in 2013-14.
The six teams will play a single round-robin schedule, along with the championship to be scheduled in May 2014. As a multi-sport conference, the A-Sun is immediately eligible for an automatic qualifier into the NCAA tournament. Typically, conferences must play with six members for two years before earning an AQ, but that requirement appears to have been waived.
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Because the Atlantic Sun would have the ninth AQ in Division I men's lacrosse, there would need to be a play-in game for the 2014 NCAA tournament; a bylaw stipulates that no more than 50 percent of the tournament field qualify via an automatic bid.
“We are very proud to continue a tradition of growth in the Atlantic Sun Conference with the addition of men’s lacrosse as our newest championship sport,” A-Sun commissioner Ted Gumbart said. “The A-Sun continues to be a leader in building opportunities for student-athletes and we are very excited about working with the distinguished institutions who will be joining us to provide this additional conference championship. From our debut as the first Division I conference to sponsor sand volleyball last spring, to this spring’s initial women’s lacrosse championship and on to men’s lacrosse next spring, we are committed to expanding competitive opportunities and forging partnerships that will allow us to meet that goal.”
The A-Sun becomes the 10th conference in NCAA Division I to sponsor men’s lacrosse as a championship sport, joining the America East, Atlantic Coast, Big East, Colonial Athletic Association, Eastern College Athletic Conference, Independents, Ivy League, Metro Atlantic Athletic, Northeast Conference and the Patriot League. For the 2012-13 academic year, there are 61 NCAA-sanctioned Division I men's lacrosse teams.