Willamette University Athletics Director Valerie Cleary has announced that the NCAA Division III Bearcats will hire a head coach for women’s lacrosse in the spring of 2017 with the goal of competing within the Northwest Conference in the spring of 2019.
Safety concerns related to changes in the flow of the Willamette River compelled Willamette to terminate its women’s rowing program in May of 2016, so the university began evaluating alternative varsity sports. The only women’s sport within the Northwest Conference not already offered at Willamette was lacrosse, which also was among the sports most-selected by students in the university’s recent athletic-interest survey.
“After careful consideration of levels of interest in high school sports, student interest surveys completed on campus last spring, and competition available within the Northwest Conference, lacrosse quickly emerged as the top candidate for Willamette’s new women’s sport,” said Cleary.
The university’s timetable is ambitious. The NCAA recommends a three-year process for launching a new varsity sport, and Willamette is committed to a two-year time frame that starts with recruiting a head coach next semester.
“I’m excited to offer our students the opportunity to compete in lacrosse, which is growing rapidly in popularity. The timeline will be a challenge, but our plan is for our new head coach to lead a club team in 2017-18 and to recruit the first varsity Bearcat lacrosse team to practice in fall 2018 for spring 2019 competition,” said Cleary.