Utah Expected to Add Men’s Lacrosse as an Ncaa Division I Sport

Betsey Bowen

SALT LAKE CITY — According to a posted agenda by the University of Utah’s Board of Trustees, U. President David W. Pershing will recommend action on the establishment of men’s lacrosse as a Division I sport at the school in a conference call early Friday morning.

Pershing is recommending “approval to proceed with the formation of a new Division I varsity sport as submitted to the Board of Trustees.”

A press conference featuring Utah athletics director Dr. Chris Hill has been scheduled for Friday at 10 a.m. It will be carried live on pac-12.com.

“It’s just a great day for lacrosse in Utah and in the West in general. A lot of media outlets are going to pick this up and be very excited about it,” said Tim Haslam, who has handled public relations for the program. “Lacrosse, for a long time has been dominated by the East Coast. Just until a few years ago all of the teams were in the Eastern time zone. So to see lacrosse come out West is huge.”

Utah will be the western-most school in the nation to have a NCAA Division I lacrosse team. Air Force and Denver hold that distinction until the Utes move up from the club level in 2018-19.

“Overall it’s just great for the sport,” Haslam said.

The genesis for Utah’s lacrosse program began in the late ’80s and evolved into more of a “virtual varsity” sport the following decade.

Talks involving a move to NCAA Division I status began in earnest about 18 months ago.

Pershing formed a “New Sport Working Group” in January of 2017 to explore the challenges and strengths of adding lacrosse as an NCAA Division I sport. The months that followed included the conduction of a risk/benefit analysis.

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The New Sport Working Group recommended approval if the sufficient and sustainable funding was secured. Other conditions included a final review of Title IX requirements that assured that there would be no adverse impacts with compliance. That led to a recommendation to transition over a span of several years to the full complement of 12.6 scholarships.

Utah currently competes at the highest level of collegiate athletics in seven men’s sports — baseball, basketball, football, golf, skiing, swimming and diving, and tennis.

Utah has NCAA teams in nine women’s sports — basketball, beach volleyball, cross country, gymnastics, skiing, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, and track and field.

Haslam said that Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott noted that the addition of men’s lacrosse would give Utah a “niche” as the first team in the conference to play at the highest level.

The Utes, under long-time North Carolina assistant coach Brian Holman, went 10-7 this past season. They had a winning record for the first time since 2010 and reached nationals for just the second time, ending a 12-year drought.

Utah dropped a 9-8 overtime decision to Chapman in the Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse Association National Tournament.

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