MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. – The Atlantic Sun Conference announced today that the Central Michigan women’s lacrosse program will join the league as an affiliate member beginning with the 2016 season.
“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.”
When Central Michigan joins the Atlantic Sun in 2016, it is set to be the ninth program in the conference. 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 A‑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.”
Central Michigan announced the addition of women’s lacrosse along with women’s golf in December 2012. The addition of these programs demonstrates Central Michigan's long-standing compliance with Title IX and will provide equitable athletics participation 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.
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. The USL survey also revealed Michigan's 8,075 youth players as the ninth-highest total in the country.
“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 was established in 1978 and currently sponsors 19 sports. The 2013 season was the first that the A-Sun sponsored women’s lacrosse with Jacksonville capturing the regular season and tournament championships.
The Chippewas have been members of Mid-American Conference since 1971 and CMU’s 17 other sports compete in the MAC. Central Michigan will be the only program in the conference to currently offer women’s lacrosse.
"I want to congratulate Central Michigan athletics, specifically director of athletics David Heeke, for the addition of women's lacrosse to the Chippewa athletic department," MAC Commissioner, Dr. Jon Steinbrecher said. "In the current economic climate of college athletics, many athletic departments are dropping programs, yet to see Central Michigan take an aggressive approach and add to its athletic offerings another women's sport is a welcome and refreshing development."