Lee News

Lee to Add Women's Lacrosse

Lee University will add women's lacrosse as an intercollegiate sport, beginning play in the spring of 2017, according to an announcement by university president Dr. Paul Conn.

Conn said the plan to add women's lacrosse was ratified by the university's Board of Directors last week at its winter session in Florida. "We're eager to introduce this fast-growing sport to Lee University and the local community. We want Lee to be a magnet for female athletes, and lacrosse is a fast and exciting sport that young women in other parts of the country have loved for many years, and which is rapidly growing in the South."

It will mark the first totally new intercollegiate sport added at Lee in the past 19 years. Conn and the Board brought back baseball in 1997. "Before that, it seemed like we were adding a sport almost every year. We did add track-and-field, but we saw that as an extension of our cross-country programs."

The decision to add women's lacrosse followed a recommendation by a "feasibility study group", chaired by Associate Athletic Director Andrea Hudson during the past several months. Hudson's ten-member group studied comparable teams in the region, the financial aspects of beginning a team, and the overall impact on the Lee athletic program.

In 2015, a group of female students requested approval from the university to begin a women's lacrosse club program, modeled on the pattern of the popular and successful rugby clubs at Lee, which are not official NCAA teams, but which compete successfully with other college rugby clubs.

Lee will not be going into the lacrosse pool alone. A league within the Gulf South Conference (GSC) has been formed. Shorter University and Alabama Huntsville have teamed with Young Harris (Ga.) and the University of Montevallo (Ala.). Lee will enter as the fifth squad while Valdosta State and Christian Brothers have shown an interest.

Conn pointed out that 52 high schools in Tennessee are currently playing women's lacrosse and others are being added. He also noted that 108 Georgia high schools play the sport. NCAA Division II lists 100 women's lacrosse teams and at least 13 more, including Lee, are entering the exciting adventure within the next two years.

Conn said he believes Lee will be an attractive option for high school lacrosse players in this region and from other states where Lee recruits many students. "We will appoint a search committee of five members, to begin immediately searching for our first lacrosse coach. We are prepared for it to take a few years, but in time we expect women's lacrosse, like our other teams, will produce winners." Conn said there is no discussion of adding men's lacrosse at this time.

Lee University Athletic Director Larry Carpenter is in full support of bringing another program on board. "Women's lacrosse is the up and coming sport especially in the south. We want to be part of its growth. There are over 150 high schools in Tennessee and Georgia that sponsor girls' lacrosse."

He added, "It is already established in the Northeast so the recruiting pool is tremendous. We place a lot of emphasis on women's sports at Lee. We feel this is an opportunity to add another competitive team for our students and community to enjoy. We are excited to begin this process and look forward to our first lacrosse game next spring."

Hudson and Carpenter, along with Assistant Vice President Cole Strong, will lead the process of finding a coach and launching the program, Conn said. "Even though it will be difficult to have all the pieces in place by spring 2017, we want to go ahead and get started next year if possible," he said.

Members of the Lacrosse Feasibility Study Group, in addition to Hudson and Strong, were Mark Brew, Jessica McIntyre, and Jeff Mullins from the athletic department; Larry Berry, Duane Pace, and Kevin Hudson from the Lee administration; Pam Womack from the faculty; and Autumn O'Bryan, principal of Cleveland High School, as the alumni member.
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