Phillylacrosse.com, Posted 10/14/17
From Press Release
American Athletic Conference Commissioner Mike Aresco has announced the addition of women’s lacrosse as the Conference’s 22nd sport beginning in 2019. The six-team league will be comprised of current conference members University of Cincinnati, University of Connecticut, East Carolina University and Temple University, as well as the University of Florida and Vanderbilt University as affiliate members.
The American becomes the 16th Division I conference to sponsor women’s lacrosse.
“We are really excited to be a part of bringing lacrosse to The American Conference,” said Temple head coach Bonnie Rosen. “It has been great being a part of the BIG EAST Conference for the past few years, but the timing is now right for The American to be the host of women’s lacrosse. I believe that The American will help us position both our Temple lacrosse program and the conference to be one of the most competitive in our sport.”
Cincinnati, UConn, Temple, Florida and Vanderbilt are current members of the Big East Conference in women’s lacrosse, while ECU begins its first season of intercollegiate competition in 2018 after the addition of women’s lacrosse to its sports roster in March 2016. Women’s lacrosse is the first sport addition to the conference since its reinvention in 2013. The American will now sponsor 10 men’s and 12 women’s sports. The conference will conduct its first women’s lacrosse championship in 2019 with the site and dates still to be determined. The American will receive an automatic bid into the NCAA Championship.
“We are extremely pleased to be adding women’s lacrosse as a conference sport,” Aresco said. “The development of the sport has been impressive over the last decade and its popularity continues to grow. Our decision to sponsor women’s lacrosse will be of great benefit to our membership and will provide our student-athletes with additional competitive opportunities and will enhance our conference’s brand. I also want to take this opportunity to welcome Florida and Vanderbilt as affiliate members. These are two programs which have been highly successful at the national level. I look forward to watching our women’s lacrosse league develop and achieve great success over the next several years.”
Cincinnati added women’s lacrosse as a varsity sport in 2007 and began its first season of competition in 2008. The Bearcats are led by sixth-year head coach Gina Oliver, a three-time All-American at Ohio State.
UConn first began playing women’s lacrosse in 1997. The Huskies are coached by Katie Woods, who is entering her eighth season on the Storrs campus. A two-time Big East coach-of-the-year honoree, Woods is the program’s all-time winningest coach with 73 victories.
Former North Carolina standout and Duke assistant coach Amanda Barnes is set to lead ECU in its first season of competition in 2018.
Temple has a storied history in women’s lacrosse dating back to its first season in 1975. The Owls have earned 17 NCAA Championship berths, winning national titles in 1984 and 1988. Rosen, a 2010 US Lacrosse Hall of Fame inductee, has won 165 games during her career, including 97 in her 11 seasons at the helm of the Temple program.
Florida has made seven NCAA Championship appearances since it began playing women’s lacrosse in 2010. The Gators advanced to the national semifinals in 2012 and have won three consecutive Big East crowns. Amanda O’Leary (Temple, Spring-Ford), who has guided Florida since the program’s inception, coached at Yale from 1993-2007. Her 293 career victories ranks fifth all-time in Division I women’s history.
Vanderbilt’s first season of competition was in 1996. Head coach Cathy Swezey (Moorestown) is entering her 21st season as head coach of the Commodores. She has led Vanderbilt to six NCAA tournament appearances, including a trip to the national semifinals in 2004.
Big East members will change in 2019
The Big East women’s lacrosse lineup will have a new look for the 2019 season. Already an affiliate member in the sport of field hockey, Old Dominion will be added to the Big East women’s lacrosse roster, joining Butler, Georgetown, Marquette, Villanova and fellow affiliate Denver. The American Athletic Conference will sponsor its first season of women’s lacrosse in 2019, as current Big East affiliate members Cincinnati, Connecticut, Florida, Temple and Vanderbilt will shift to AAC play.
Old Dominion currently competes in the ASUN in women’s lacrosse, an 11-team league which will divide its programs with the Southern Conference starting in 2018 to form two six-team leagues. The SoCon will feature Central Michigan, Delaware State, Detroit Mercy, Furman, Mercer and Wofford, which begins its first season of women’s lacrosse in 2018. The ASUN includes Jacksonville, Kennesaw State, Stetson, Coastal Carolina, Howard and Kent State. Kent State’s inaugural season will be 2019, while East Carolina’s first season in 2018 will be as an independent before joining the AAC for 2019.
Automatic bids into the NCAA Championship are awarded to conferences with a minimum of six teams. The Big East, AAC, SoCon and ASUN will all receive automatic bids for the 2019 NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Championship. Florida has claimed the Big East’s last three NCAA automatic berths, winning a trio of Big East Championship crowns.
“The growth of women’s lacrosse has allowed conferences to review their membership and create alignments of likeminded institutions,” said Chris Schneider, Big East Associate Commissioner of Olympic Sports. “We are excited for the opportunity to expand our relationship with Old Dominion and look forward welcoming their women’s lacrosse program to the Big East in 2019. I’d like to thank AAC Associate Commissioner Jim Siedliski and ASUN Associate Commissioner Mike Hagen for their professionalism and collaboration in the process.”
Butler just completed its inaugural season of women’s lacrosse in 2017, while Denver finished its first season as a Big East affiliate with a run to the conference title game. Georgetown has six Big East finals appearances to its credit, including its 2010 championship season. Villanova made its first conference postseason appearance in 2015, and Marquette has made noticeable strides despite still being a relatively young program. Old Dominion posted a 9-9 record in 2017 and earned the program’s first NCAA berth in 2016 with a 16-4 overall mark.