The addition of lacrosse brings the number of women's sports offered by UF to 12. The last two sports added to Florida's program were soccer (started play in 1995) and softball (started play in 1997). The site where the UF lacrosse team will compete is still being explored and will be announced at a later date.
"Obviously, it is a very exciting day for our program. Anytime you can add a sport, it is exciting. To have the opportunity to start a program from scratch and build it and hopefully achieve a great deal of success down the road, that is why we do what we do," Foley said. "This University has always had a tremendous amount of pride in our women's athletic programs. I think this University has always shown a tremendous commitment to women's athletics and I think today is another statement along those lines."
Florida will be the second Southeastern Conference school to field a women's lacrosse team. Vanderbilt has sponsored a women's lacrosse team since 1996 (reaching the 2004 NCAA semifinals). The UAA will seek an affiliate membership in a league based on the east coast since the SEC does not offer a women's lacrosse championship. Florida will be the second Division I program in the state of Florida to offer women's lacrosse, as Miami will field its first team beginning in the 2007 season. Of the 80 Division I NCAA schools offering women's lacrosse for the 2006 season, 75 are in the southern or eastern United States.
UF Athletics Director Jeremy Foley and Associate Athletics Director Lynda Tealer take questions from the media on the addition of women's lacrosse to the Gator athletics program.
"We spent several years really looking at women's sports programs and trying to decide what program would be the best fit here at UF. We looked at a lot of factors," UF Associate Athletics Director Lynda Tealer said. "Primarily we focused on things like who would we recruit, who would we compete against, are there opportunities to win championships and of course, just bringing in a sport that would really add to our program. We feel like lacrosse fits every one of those areas."
Currently, lacrosse is the 12th most popular sport among Division I women's programs. In 2005-06, the NCAA offered championships in 20 women's Division I sports (including the co-ed sports of fencing, rifle, skiing). The NCAA has sponsored a national collegiate championship (one champion for all divisions) for women's lacrosse since 1982. 2001 was the first year for the Division I NCAA Women's Lacrosse Championship. In the state of Florida, 43 high schools offered the sport during the 2004-05 season. Nationally, lacrosse is the 13th most popular sport among female high school students, with 38,885 participants in 2002-03.
For more information about the sport of lacrosse, please visit http://gatorzone.com/lacrosse/