Virginia Commonwealth will add women's lacrosse to its athletics lineup beginning with the 2015-16 season in order to maintain compliance with Title IX, the school has announced.
The VCU Board of Visitors on Thursday approved adding the sport to its intercollegiate athletics program, which currently sponsors 16 intercollegiate sports programs -- eight men's teams and eight women's teams.
Over the past four years, the number of student-athletes per academic year has consistently been between 265 and 279, and student-athlete composition has generally been equal between men and women. However, given that VCU has a greater proportion of women than men in the general undergraduate population, the school determined that adding a women's lacrosse team was necessary to help ensure the university remains in compliance with Title IX.
"Lacrosse is the fastest-growing sport in America, and it fits well with our recruiting goals for admissions, which target the East Coast," said VCU athletic director Ed McLaughlin. "It's a natural fit and makes a whole lot of sense."
McLaughlin added that the Atlantic 10 Conference has lacrosse, so there will not be a need to play in a different conference. The team will carry a roster of 25 to 30 players.
US Lacrosse reports that lacrosse is the fastest-growing sport for girls in high schools across the country, with a 48 percent increase of institutions sponsoring the sport from 2006 to 2011. It also is the most rapidly growing sport for women at the college level, with a 31.7 percent increase in NCAA institutions sponsoring the sport from 2006 to 2011, according to the organization.
It is estimated that operating costs for the program will reach about $745,000 when it reaches its potential by its third year.
Title IX is a federal law passed in 1972 that requires gender equality in educational programs, including athletics. In terms of college athletics, women and men must be provided equitable opportunities to participate. The law also calls for athletic opportunities for men and women at a school to be in proportion to the overall gender ratio of the student body.