The women’s lacrosse program is preliminarily scheduled to begin varsity competition in the spring of 2016 and a more detailed timeline to fully incorporate the sport and its coaching staff into the Athletics Department will be released in the coming weeks. The Big South Conference added women’s lacrosse as a sponsored sport in the 2012-13 season. This decision allows all 16 varsity sports sponsored at the University to compete in the Big South Conference, a valued membership Radford Athletics has maintained since the league’s inception.
A successful Division I athletics department, like any successful organization, cannot remain static. It must identify a strategy to best serve the University and its Student-Athletes for the long term. As a result, the University’s athletics strategic plan recognized the need for a thoughtful and forward-looking assessment of the University’s NCAA Division I sports offerings to ensure meeting the Athletics Department mission to “guide, inspire, and support our Student-Athletes in their quest for excellence – academically, athletically, and socially.” It also addressed the future needs of the University and the next generation of Highlander Student-Athletes.
That assessment involved more than a year of extensive study and strategic analysis which considered many factors, including competitive success, high school and college sports participation rates, and resource requirements. It focused on the most effective means for fulfilling the University’s athletics strategic plan, which includes a commitment to enable our Student-Athletes to achieve ambitious academic, athletic, and personal aspirations, and to compete successfully for conference championships and national recognition. The analysis also evaluated the Athletics budget, its ongoing expectations for support, the facilities needs for the entire department, and the costs associated with providing appropriate venues for competition in each sports program.
While this reconfiguration serves the best interests of the majority of our current and future Student-Athletes, we recognize how disappointing this decision is for our affected Student-Athletes, their families, coaches, and alumni. This is an extremely hard decision to make. The University and the Athletics Department are proud of the Student-Athletes who have competed on these teams as Highlanders. We are equally grateful to them and the coaching professionals for their many contributions to Radford University.
The University will make every effort to assist those Student-Athletes affected by this decision. For current students who choose to continue their undergraduate education at the University, Radford will honor their athletics scholarships until they graduate or for a period equal to their remaining NCAA eligibility and continue to grant them full access to our academic support systems in the Athletics Department’s Learning Enhancement Center. The department will also grant immediate release to any Student-Athlete who chooses to transfer and compete at another institution.
Beginning in the 2015-16 academic year, the University will sponsor 16 NCAA Division I programs. All will compete in the Big South Conference.