Hampton University aims to expand its athletic, and academic, profile with the addition of women's soccer and men's lacrosse, athletic director Eugene Marshall confirmed Tuesday.
Hampton hired head coaches — John McNabb for women's soccer and Lloyd Carter for men's lacrosse — and both sports will compete against modified schedules as start-up Division I programs in the 2015-16 school year.
"It's two sports that will bring forth the type of student-athlete the university is looking for," Marshall said. "The fact that the MEAC didn't sponsor them wasn't a factor. These are two sports that will bring good student-athletes from around the country and around the world to compete for championships."
InsideLacrosse.com first reported HU's decision to add the sport Tuesday, though the topic of adding programs has been discussed on campus for the past year. Marshall said that the Board of Trustees and school president William Harvey agreed to add soccer and lacrosse last fall, and school officials have spent the time since on structural matters and implementation.
The additions will give Hampton U. nine women's sports and seven men's sports. The school also sponsors sailing, a co-ed sport. Men's lacrosse and women's soccer have been club sports at HU for the past several years.
Marshall cited the academic profile of recruits in both sports, as well as diversifying the school's athletic pursuits.
"I think both programs are going to entice a different kind of student," he said. "Also, it's going to help us, as Hampton University continues to be a national and international institution, because we can get international soccer players and international lacrosse players. We can recruit inside Virginia and outside Virginia. It's a great footprint, and it's another way, when we have games on the road, that will allow us to reach our alumni, to play games around the country where our alumni are."
Marshall did not have budget figures for the new programs handy — he was traveling Tuesday afternoon — but said that both will be competitive with other Division I programs in the area and with which they hope to compete.
He said that the school won't fund full NCAA scholarship maximums for each sport right away. Women's soccer is allowed the equivalent of 14 full scholarships, which can be divided among many athletes, while men's lacrosse is permitted the equivalent of 12.6 scholarships.
Marshall said that he will make annual assessments of each program, in relation to the competition, as well as the relative funding and scholarship levels of HU's existing sports.
"We want to keep balance and equity," he said. "We are being very cautious about how we move forward. We don't want to get caught in an arms race with these two sports, and you can easily get caught up in that with these two sports, and lose sight of your other teams."
Marshall said that the school is finalizing a deal for women's soccer home games to be played off campus, while the men's lacrosse team will play home games at Armstrong Stadium. Women's soccer will practice on the field behind the stadium, sharing it with the football team, and men's lacrosse will practice most often at the stadium. He said that he envisions few conflicts between lacrosse and spring football.
McNabb, a professor in HU's Department of Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, coached the Pirates' club soccer team since 2013. He has played in the Virginia Rush Peninsula Adult League and is licensed to coach through the U.S. Soccer Federation and Virginia Youth Soccer Association.
Carter, a native of Baltimore, co-founded and coached HU's club program beginning in 2010. He played lacrosse at Morgan State until the program was disbanded in 1981 and was a successful high school coach in Baltimore, winning multiple city and division titles.
Because the MEAC does not sponsor either sport, Hampton will compete as an independent. The aim, Marshall said, is to find conferences to ease scheduling concerns and permit the teams to play for championships. The programs may be able to join any number of leagues as affiliate members.
"As this progresses, if the MEAC decides to have soccer and lacrosse, we'll be members," Marshall said. "If they don't, we will find another conference to house these sports. The fact that the MEAC doesn't have those sports didn't play a factor in it. It's always trying to do something that's in the best interest of Hampton University."
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